This is an opinion piece by Ann Thomson – delivery manager, yogi, mum and friend of Blue Melon
Pre-covid, on my morning drive to the Blue Melon Design office, I would pass through the idyllic seaside community of Freshwater. Imagine the scene: Morning light streams down upon a designer surf shop, an organic bakery, as well as 10-15 commuters standing closely in line waiting for their bus into the city. Every single one of these people stare deeply into the abyss of their smartphones. Every day that I drive by, I see the same exact scene.
It’s an eerie and all too common situation that alarms but does not surprise me. Perhaps these people were reading the morning headlines, getting ahead of work, or checking their socials. I get it and we all do it. However, something vitally important to our humanity is missing there: Authentic connection.
Sure, social media can be a way to connect people in new ways. However, does it actually cultivate new and/or more meaningful connections? Sometimes, yes. But let’s be honest here. Social media exists to monetise our social behaviour. To be quite frank, on the ‘Gram’ (or whatever platform is your fancy), you are essentially valued as data.
For the most part, the process in which online businesses operate is not configured to facilitate or enhance human connection either. Rather, it serves to reduce interactions into predictable outcomes that can be monetised. As a result, consumers can easily feel incredibly isolated in a hyper-connected world.
In an increasingly inauthentic world of bots, data driven advertising and algorithms, brands risk losing true connection with people. In turn, trust is compromised, consumers disengage, and everyone loses in the end.
Of course, we can’t throw all technology and digital communication to the wind and go back to handwritten notes and singing personal telegrams. Technology is incredibly effective, and it can be a lot of fun. Plus, online business isn’t going anywhere. The question we need to ask ourselves now however is, “How can we integrate more humanity into our high tech and data-driven world?”
First, it starts with awareness as individuals. We must remind ourselves and each other that the true experience of life is shaped by meaningful and real interactions with others. Life is not curated and organized to perfection, despite what we often observe online.
That being said, individuals and businesses alike can use social media to maximize their human side and authenticity. As a business, choose imagery and craft descriptions for social posts meaningfully. Ask whether what is written is something that you would actually engage with yourself.
On the business side of things, consider how “human” your brand is. After all, a brand is a human creation, designed for humans. By nature, people want to attach to a sense of shared value and community. This is why brands like Patagonia and Apple are successful. Do you want to feel connected to real world causes and environmentally friendly ambitions, among a global community of like-minded people? Chances are you’ll gravitate toward purchasing a Patagonia jacket this winter versus another brand. Does listening to your favourite song make you want to dance like nobody’s watching? Fortunately, as Apple showed us with its iconic first iPod campaign, your spirit can feel this way whether in the privacy of your bedroom or while on public transport.
Back to the point on data; Data collection is immensely important to online business and it shouldn’t be considered as evil. Moreover, the intention of implementing data collection is to help businesses better understand their customers, which is great. Perhaps an emphasis on collecting data that is relevant to your audience and then draw from it to craft engaging solutions is what is called for. In other words, how can businesses use data to actually help their consumers instead of simply increasing their profits?
Moreover, companies might consider facilitating more live, individualised interactions between humans and less ‘bot’ communication, auto replies, etc. Let’s rewind a few centuries, just a little bit please. When you have humans communicating to human beings, that’s when the real insights occur. That’s when the magic happens.
To quote Brene Brown, esteemed professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and a specialist in social connection, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to.” So whether it’s an authentic connection to yourself, to others, or in business, make it a priority.
Our humanity depends on it.
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