Face-to-Face vs. Facebook?

A recent public survey on Yahoo.com shows that 73% of the 40,000 on-line voters agreed that social media’s impact on society “does more harm than good” while just 10% agreed it does more good than harm. While quasi-scientific, the poll does show what I sense is a growing push-back against the impact of social media, particularly in light of recent high-profile cases of bullying, cyber-stalking, and even situations resulting in death.

The results remind me of other surveys over recent months and years that shows employees, even in this age of e-connectivity, still prefer face-to-face communication with other employees and their boss rather than e-mails, newsletters, video messages, Wikis, blogs, and web forums. When we get right down to it, we’re all still human governed by strong emotions linked to a sense of basic comfort, community, and communication. And the strongest interconnectivity comes from personal contact–face-to-face stuff where we hear words and read body language.

There’s plenty of work arguing the impacts of social media on our sense of belonging or isolation, on development of social skills, and our ability to engage others in fulsome communication. But the question here for you is the ongoing benefits of direct, human communications in the workplace.

In one piece of employee research, employees who thought there was very poor conflict resolution in their workplace also gave a rock-bottom rating to having their opinion sought. In fact, just 9% of this group agreed that immediate supervisors asked them their opinion about the job. But here’s the real rub. When these same employees were asked to self-rate their own performance, only 39% agreed that they were good listeners and only 53% agreed that they did a good job of sharing information with colleagues. Which makes me wonder how much of that very poorly rated workplace conflict resolution is caused by the employees own behavior.

Employee survey after employee survey shows that workplace internal communication is going downhill, morale in sinking, and employees are getting disengaged at the same time that the tools of technology are exponentially expanding. What’s the deal here? Do you think that the new technologies have become a very handy excuse for a lack of basic, face-to-face communications? And we’re paying the price in terms of our sense of belonging, support, and value?