Welcome to my 2016 A to Z series on how to establish a meaningful minimum for social media as part of a balanced life. Over the next 26 days, I’ll take a quick look at some of the pluses and minuses of social media and how to adapt it to your own needs and plans.
I just spent twenty-four hours with my youngest kid touring the UCLA campus on an admitted students’ tour.
Fresh from studying how social media impacts relationships, I wanted to make sure that the time we spent together on this briefest of tours was a time of connection, so I decided not to check my phone unless I needed to know the time or to take a call.
It seems the older he gets, the more answers he finds on his own, the more I need to support with thoughtfulness and respect the man he is becoming. Without guiding or directing his observations of the campus, I wanted to observe him, listen to him, and validate by eye contact that he was getting what he needed from the visit.
When we pulled back into our driveway today, he thanked me for a great trip. Sure, he got some treats and some UCLA swag, but more than that, we connected over what he was doing without ever speaking of the significance of it. At times, I would just look in his eyes and smile, the way I had done since he was a newborn.
Sadly, eye contact, that most intimate of gestures, is on a decline due to the use of hand held devices and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on social media. Studies show a loss of this necessary human need among people in younger age groups. It is not uncommon for people to answer the phone in the midst of conversations or check social media while dining out with others.
I wonder about this and who would get the blame. We can’t blame them. Who put those first screens and devices in their hands? Who paid for those first data plans?
My Dad used to say of his mother (an intelligent woman who didn’t receive more than a fifth grade education in Italy) that she had a way of making people feel like they were enormously important. When I asked him what she did, he said she really looked and listened and would stop whatever she was doing just to listen to and look at whoever she was speaking to.
Oddly enough, eye contact and behavior similar to my grandmother’s is an element of charisma called presence. A powerful group of behaviors which make people feel seen and valued, it is one of the easiest ways to truly connect.
In adult conversations, people make eye contact somewhere between 30-60% of the time when the ideal level of eye contact is 60-70% of a conversation. These gazes, metered out in small doses of 7 to 10 seconds for one-on-one meetings, and 3 to 5 seconds for group meetings, create a feeling of engagement. (SOURCE: WSJ) Eye contact longer then 10 seconds tends to come off as aggressive or creepy, though the amount of eye contact deemed appropriate also varies by culture.
Feeling lonely? Consider less screen time and more in-person face time. Could be a dose of eye contact is what you need.
To visit other blogs in the A to Z Challenge, go here:
I would love to know what you think about this trend. Does it seem to you like social media and handheld devices have changed how often people look you in the eye?