Humanity In A Digital World

By Sumi Ghosh, CEO at Tata Starbucks Pvt. Ltd

Sumi Ghosh, CEO at Tata Starbucks Pvt. LtdThe speed of adaptation to new technology and the spread to broad demographics has surpassed what I thought was possible.

But at the same time, at what cost?

When the first Ipod was introduced I marveled at the impact that Apple had at making relevant products for every age group and gender. Being a leader that is responsible for touching many people with a service and product, I was very intrigued by the adaptability of consumers to step into areas that I thought to be complex and targeted at a certain demographic.

It reminds me of the time when I purchased my 80 year old mother the next generation of Iphone. She literally jumped up and down with joy and then asked me to PLEASE get the 64GB version as the 16 GB of memory is just not enough! What is happening in this world when even an 80 year old widow’s feet leaves the ground over the next gen phone with a specific request for storage?

I have 3 children, and expectedly they are all active in the digital age. They are using Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Spotify and up-to-date gaming consoles as well. They spend inordinate time looking down rather than up at the world. The absolute focus and energy spent on looking at their phones has literally made the thought of not having it with them UNBEARABLE. If I want to know what is happening with my children I MUST check Snapchat EVERY DAY to see the latest posts or they disappear! DISAPPEAR!! Are you kidding me, I have to check every day!! They won’t talk to me, I have to participate in their apps and speak in their language?

I admittedly am not immune, I randomly check my phone within 3-5 min increments to look at the same starting page looking for that stupid notification of something new. Did anyone send me a text, email, WhatsApp?

Years ago, I met a Psychologist that was worried about the impact of being constantly prompted for a “reward”, like a message, that was unpredictable and random in timing. He saw executives that now expected immediate responses via email and was concerned. He said that there were studies with birds who were fed in random increments with a prompt at unpredictable patterns over time. He said it resulted in a psychological phenomenon of being in a constant state of expectation and the birds literally went mad.

Unfortunately I believe we are in that same place currently. We are all in a CONSTANT state of expectation for the next notification! We are no longer engaging with each other in ‘dated’ forms of communication. We don’t talk at the dinner table, we argue about putting phones down. We no longer look up and make eye contact with each other because we are looking down at our phones. We text, WhatsApp or email each other in the same office. We are in a constant state of expectations that can rarely be quenched. The expectation state is spreading rapidly throughout humanity, with the belief that a ‘ding’ from our phones will satisfy us.

What my heart believes is that we still crave humanity above all else. We want to engage with others whether we actually realize it or not. We love when we get together with friends, family and good company. If you really look at the craze of the digital connection, the human need of engaging with others is at the core. We want the likes, hearts or thumbs up and take note of how many and even who does the liking or sharing. We need each other more than we know or admit.

With that being said, am I concerned about the future of humanity in a digital age? How do I lead a business that is built on connection in a time like this? Leaders have to face the realities of their employees and customers connecting in a format that is relevant to them spoken in a language they understand. We need to enhance our ability to connect leveraging digital platforms as well as ensure we do not lose the art of real communication. It is not an easy task and we have lots to learn.

However, I believe in the human spirit and the ability for us to evolve. We all have to be reminded that humanity at its core, relies on connecting with others in the most HUMAN way possible, and that is not looking down, but looking up!

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