Being antisocial used to mean that you actually avoided the company of others. Today, you can be a totally disengaged from those around you even when surrounded by friends and family. –

7f9e8422-f2e5-4296-97e8-4d3803a21983What is this powerful force field capable of repelling human connections? Ironically, it’s the same social networks and handy electronic communication devices that also allow us to stay in touch with people around the world, 24/7.

It’s true that by eliminating barriers like geography, time of day and physical availability for a conversation, these media make it easier and quicker to remain in contact. But at the same time, these interactions are taking place with computers, handhelds or cell phones – not people. And experts are finding that this lack of face time with others is having a tangible impact on our society, affecting our ability to become well-rounded adults and cope in live situations where we have to deal on an emotional level with other individuals.

It also seems to be making us forget our manners. Michael J. Bugeja, a professor of communications at Iowa State University and author of Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age, cites the common example of texting in the presence of others. “It sends the message that someone somewhere else is more important,” he notes.1 Some would call that just plain rude…

What’s more, even though people can spend half of their days chatting online with a vast number of contacts, researchers have found that we are lonelier than ever. In fact, the number of lonely people in the United States has nearly tripled over the last 20 years.2 Some attribute this to electronic communication being a primary – and solitary – means of social interaction for many to the exclusion of genuine human contact.

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Reliance on electronics is also changing how people work, with emails being sent between neighboring cubicles to avoid engaging in actual conversations. That said, business expert Tom Peter points out the continuing importance of face-to-face communication in the workplace. “No question, technology is the Great Enabler. But, paradoxically, now the human bit is more, not less, important than ever before.”3

And that’s where paper can make a difference. In many ways, it can bring out the “human” in us by reconnecting us with those around us. Think about it… It’s difficult to imagine someone writing a birthday card to a friend in the middle of a dinner out with coworkers. If you tune out while writing notes on a flip chart during a work presentation, people will notice. And it’s downright impossible to hold a parallel conversation with someone else while reading your kids a bedtime story. Basically, paper makes you present in the moment.

There are countless ways that paper can be a catalyst for genuine conversation – and with the real you, not your avatar. Looking at photos with your granddad, wrapping gifts for the holidays with your mom, scanning the travel section of the newspaper with your boyfriend, catalog shopping over the phone with your sister, receiving a hand delivered menu from a new local restaurant owner, inking up bingo cards every week during girls’ night out… even flying that paper airplane in class to the delight of your buddies.

These are just a small idea of what paper can do for your social life. So join in the fun outside of cyberspace for a while. You might just find yourself LOL!

1   Cornblatt, Johanna. Lonely Planet, The Daily Beast, August 20, 2009
2   Duque, Steven. Is Social Media Making Us Lonely? Wall St. Cheat Sheet. October12, 2010
3   Paris, Mary Jane. Face-to-Face Communication – Old Fashioned? Not!

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