Why tech can never replace in-person interaction

People are fed up of Zoom. They’re cynical about dating apps. Social media leaves them unfulfilled, craving real, in-person interactions. Fethr’s original research findings back this up: even though meeting online is easier in a practical sense (lots of potential friends collected in one place, don’t have to get off your sofa), 63% of people would prefer to meet people face to face rather than online.

With in person interactions limited due to lockdowns, we’re more aware than ever of how dull and grey digital interactions are when compared to the real thing. Only about 10-30% of communication is verbal and so messaging on social media can only ever go so far.

Friendship and social skills expert Paul Sanders thinks that we're about to enter a post social-media era: 'People aren’t going to stop using social media, but the euphoria and enthusiasm around it will die down. They'll start to realise that really it's just a distraction from building your social life or working on your goals.

Companies like Facebook/Meta are incentivised to keep you looking at your phone. As soon as you put your phone down, Mr. Zuckerberg stops making ad money. My advice is to delete those apps from your phone if you can, or at least turn off all their notifications (except messaging notifications). Once you do that, you realize how much time you have to work on your social life. You’ll have a better idea of who your friends are and what kind of friends you want to have in the future. All of a sudden, you’re able to take action and have the friends you want.'

Meanwhile, dating apps can be downright dehumanising. When the difference between getting to know someone and rejecting them forever is as superficial as a swipe, it becomes far too easy to discount people.

There are so many fish in the sea that you’re never satisfied with what you do catch; you always suspect that there’s someone better just one more swipe away. In the friend-finding space, the same principle applies to the likes of Bumble BFF. As a result of this swiping culture, people rarely advance further than half-hearted small talk, let alone meeting in person.

It’s perhaps no wonder, in light of this, that 3x as many of the people we polled still meet people using offline avenues rather than online. So, rather than trying to keep users hooked on their phones, fethr helps you get out into the real world as quickly as possible.

Our algorithm does a better job of finding compatibility than mindless swiping ever could. So you can quickly take things offline where connection comes easier and interactions are funner, more spontaneous.

It’s obvious that tech has the potential to improve our social lives immeasurably - rather than greedily devouring all our free time.

Apps like fethr provide a place where you’re guaranteed to find people in the same boat, also on the lookout for new mates. Artificial intelligence built into the matching algorithm ensures that these prospective new mates are also as compatible with your personality as possible. And all of your social experiences can be arranged to fit your schedule, maximising your free time.

Consumers can see this potential, with 62% of our respondents saying that they would meet someone introduced through an app. It just has to be the right kind of app.

So, we arrive at a moment where the technological capabilities are there, but users are utterly fatigued by screens. According to research by NordVPN Teams, employees across the UK, Canada, Austria and the USA have spent an average of 2 hours longer at their computer per day since COVID-19.

Because socialising was curtailed, work filled time that was previously set aside for friends. Now that lockdown restrictions are ending, people can finally ditch their screens. Because work took over home life so completely, surely now we’ve earned the right to spend a good deal of energy on our social lives.

Populations are raring to get back out there for the kinds of in-person activities they’ve missed out on over the past 12 months. But their social circles have shrunk during the pandemic and they worry about making the most of new-found freedoms. Luckily, making new friends is super fun when you're in the right environment to do it.

Fethr will be part of the effort to restore work-life balance by regrowing friendship groups - using the power of tech, but always remembering that the best memories are made when phones are turned off.

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