Since the advent of the wholly online era, much has been said about how the digital transformation of all of our modes of communication has arguably driven a wedge between us, and made our relationships with one another more distant. Research conducted by Science Daily has suggested that rather than facilitating communication and strengthening relationships in the way that the big social media giants have promised, time spent on the internet among adolescents corresponds with a decline in communication with family members and an overall net decrease in friendships ranging from 20-80%.
The suggestions in a spate of recent articles and opinion pieces are that time spent behind a screen is of an inferior social quality than time physically spent with loved ones, and that our wellbeing suffers as a result. In what is arguably an increasingly disconnected world, there are many simple ways to maintain a human connection, the most important being eye contact. The American journal Psychology Today concludes that maintaining eye contact with other people is the number one bridge to a meaningful connection in a wide range of contexts, from romantic, to platonic, to business relationships. In the digital era, eye contact makes those online experiences as meaningful and authentic as if they were in person, and can improve the wellbeing and sociability of people in all kinds of ways. Here are some examples of how:
We all conduct a huge portion of our social lives over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with the average person spending 28% of their time online, or about 1 hour and 40 minutes per day, interacting on social media. While sending top-notch memes to your friends in DMs is always guaranteed to get a few laughs, it isn’t necessarily a way to foster fulfilling friendships. However, throwing a little eye contact into the mix changes things. With the improvement of camera technology and the proliferation of platforms like Skype and FaceTime into our daily lives, there are new ways to live digitally whilst still maintaining meaningful and healthy socialization habits.
Face-to-face connection with your friends is key, and with such technology being increasingly mobile-friendly and low on data usage, there hasn’t been a better time to integrate this tech into your digital life. Even more fleeting forms of digital contact like Snapchat can have a more beneficial social impact than simply communicating via an online messaging service in which the only face you’ll lock eyes with is that of an emoji.
Beyond maintaining our friendships, camera technology and social media has allowed businesses to build better relationships with customers, users and clients which are a major improvement to simply doing things over the phone or via email. With customers, being able to communicate face-to-face despite distance allows a sense of trust to develop, largely thanks to that holy grail of human interaction; eye contact. Even incorporating eye contact into branding can create powerful connections with users, with the online casino experts Betway recently highlighting how doing so with slots and even online live games has helped foster a stronger sense of trust between the user and provider. While having a live blackjack dealer playing with you via a webcam is one way to build trust, research also suggests that having familiar faces to lock eyes with on slot machine branding (i.e. famous characters) makes a person more likely to pick that particular slot. It seems that we all crave eye contact from time to time.
The benefits of integrating regular eye contact into your own workflow are also tangible. Remote workers who operate on a freelance basis may very rarely have any contact with their clients. However, being able to engage with them face-to-face from the other side of the world helps to create trust and build a solid business relationship.
We well and truly live in the age of Tinder, with a full 19% of couples now having met via dating apps. While mobile technology is a key starter to modern relationships, it also plays an important role in maintaining those relationships. Regular eye contact is crucial for establishing bonds with your partner, and that can be difficult to do via the swipe-right world of Tinder. In response to this, the digital dating industry is evolving to cater to the need for stronger connections by making use of the same camera technology that freelancers and casinos are using. Some of the fastest growing dating apps of the last couple of years feature video calling as an integral part of their service, with Date FM being one of the first apps to adapt to a model based entirely on prospective daters communicating via video chat. Similarly, other online dating platforms like Match.com and Grindr have recently updated that mobile apps to allow for video calling, in the hope that users can form better connections with potential partners, and that the apps’ poor reputations when it comes to finding a partner improves.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where face-to-face communication is no longer necessary. The fact that industry leaders are recognising the need for regular eye contact from a wellbeing perspective is a positive thing, and something we hope to see a lot more of.