Lord McAlpine has spoken out strongly about the terrible impact on him of being wrongly accused of a heinous crime. And he has decided to hold to account those individuals who tweeted or otherwise broadcast the wrongful allegations – most of whom will have done so without stopping to think that there was a real human being affected.
Technology allows anyone with an internet connection to communicate information – that they may have no proof is accurate – from a distance that means they fail to connect with those about whom they are communicating with or about.
I have recently seen at first hand the impact on a close friend of malicious, anonymous messages being shared electronically about her – judging from the (incorrect) slurs they contain, they are clearly sent from someone who knows her fairly well and who purposefully wishes her harm.
The distribution of malicious information online without those who are sharing it being easily or quickly held accountable – but the victims of it being all too obvious – is cruel and can do terrible damage.
As human beings we evolved to communicate at close quarters; as a result our physical make-up is such that, to truly connect with one another, we must be physically close enough to pick up on other people’s responses to our words and actions.
Of course, this physical response to close interaction does not mean that everyone behaves in a positive way towards others – if that were the case there would be no crimes where the criminal’s pleasure came from observing another’s pain and distress. However, it seems logical that close physical proximity ensures that most people are more careful and considerate more of the time.
In our everyday language, we have many phrases that describe the experience of connecting with someone on a personal level and recognising the reality of their human experience – “My heart went out to him”, “I could sense her pain”, “We had a real heart-to-heart”. In business we regularly complain about the difficulty of working in a remote team where we rarely meet up face-to-face with our work colleagues.
Ultimately, human communication still works best when we can connect in real time and in physical proximity. With technology increasingly permeating every aspect of our business and personal lives, it seems that such interaction will continue to decrease. However, that doesn’t stop each of us keeping in mind that we are connecting with real people who are having real experiences and real reactions to our communications.
Whether communicating in business or in our personal lives, we each need to think about whether we would say the same things if we were speaking to the person face-to-face, before we decide to communicate that message remotely via email or social media. And if you wouldn’t say it to their face, maybe it’s time to use the ‘Delete’ key.
Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net