Thursday, December 22, 2011

Let's Get Personal For A Moment

I've been into technology my whole professional life. In fact, I started to tinker with computers way back in high school, long before it was common to have access to computers in the classroom. So when the holiday greeting card list grew to be fairly large, I naturally turned to automation to ease the job of cranking them out.

Of course the list was contained in a spreadsheet which included all the names and addresses in the proper format to allow me to print labels. Moreover, this was an easy way to track who has been naughty and who is nice, and has to be added to the list this year because we received a card from them last year.

I went so far as to run the cards through the ink jet printer to add a personalized signature block with our names and a cute tag line such as ...Tee Jay and Cookie, too!  so people will know our cats also want them to have a nice holiday season.

About two years ago I had an epiphany. I was so caught up in optimizing the process I had completely lost sight of why we send cards in the first place. Perhaps, I though, I should be sending holiday greetings to the people I know and care about regardless of whether they are "on the list" or not. Maybe I should write a note in the card that says something personal about that particular recipient. Hope you are enjoying your first Christmas with the new baby, or hope we can wrangle a trip to England and visit with you again soon. The signature should be handwritten and not include the names of our pets.

This year I again spent a few moments to write inside each card. It took longer. However, it restored the joy and happiness of sending these seasons greetings. Was it tiresome or boring to write over and over again? Not at all since the messages were truly tied to the individual and came from the heart, not from a script. How could I deal with so many cards? The answer here is simple. You write to family and close friends. If you can't think of anything to say about the person, they are probably a social or business acquaintance and will like be using a spreadsheet or e-card service on you. Write to anyone you know will read and appreciate the note.

More importantly, this is the simple lesson I wanted to share. Automation in many forms can depersonalize personal interaction. We text or email when we should phone. We are excited by video chat and forget how it feels to shake hands and look in someone's eyes when you talk to them.

Technology can be wonderful. It scales, making large tasks easier to manage. It extends our reach literally around the globe and compresses time. Do yourself, your friends and family a huge favor. Sometime during this holiday season, find a time and a place to firmly grasp and shake hands or give them a great big hug.

Give technology a day off and just be human.

Captain Joe

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