Why I left Google
And banished emojiis from my life to reclaim my relationships
There’s a void in messaging that no one is talking about. And it has to do with relationships.
Today, we have more ways to communicate with each other than ever. Sure we’re more “connected” but we’re also less fulfilled and more distant than ever to our closest friends and family. How did that happen? Here we sit, hunched over our tiny glowing screens tapping with our thumbs in all-caps and emojiis. Do you talk to your mother that way?
Yes. You do, but perhaps not because you actually want to. When we surveyed 100 women about their communication preferences we found the following:
- 70% said they use text, email, and social media to stay in touch with close friends and family; but only 22% said that reading and responding to updates and viewing photos and videos brought them the most gratification.
- 81% said they were most gratified when they “talked” to close friends and family, yet only 28% communicated using voice.
- And 53% told us they don’t connect more frequently with friends and family because they are simply too busy.
You talk to your mother that way because modern life and technology intervened. We traded the investment it takes to keep our relationships strong and opted instead for expediency. And that convenience was handed to us by a league of talented young men who are in their twenties. Yet if we stop and think about these existing communication channels (text, email, and social media), they are largely transactional, isolating, and emotionless. The time has come to reclaim our relationships with the people we care about most. Especially now that we have evidence that today’s social media is eroding our sense of well-being.
Before I became a mother, I was a friend. I wasn’t always a perfect friend, but on a few occasions I got it right when it counted. I made my best friend in college when she tearfully knocked on my door one night and asked for help. She had been raped the week before coming to school and needed medical attention. Since I went to college in my hometown, she hoped I’d be trustworthy and resourceful enough to know where she could go. I dropped everything and took her to Planned Parenthood the next day.
Sharing those moments in the waiting room established a lifelong bond. Twenty years later, we find ourselves thousands of miles apart. Our lives have gone in different directions. Despite our distance and our differences, there’s no one I’d rather share a cup of coffee with. This scenario plays out with most of us who have left behind high school and college friends and moved away from our home town. The truth is that today we often live in different parts of the country (or another country altogether) from our relatives and friends. The realities of a demanding job, family priorities and a busy lifestyle prevent most of us from keeping in touch beyond a very small and finite group of friends and family. There is minimal real conversation with friends and family short of an annual Christmas card or birthday greeting on Facebook.
Many of us are blessed with a handful of significant people in our lives that we’d travel the ends of the earth to talk to again. These are the people that just “get us.” These are the people that we can say anything to no matter how much time has passed. These are the people with whom we can share the highs and the lows. If the common human experience is suffering, why are we trying to support one another by passively “liking” each other’s social media posts and posting selfies and GIFs?
Last spring, I decided to leave the stability of my job at Google, where I worked for nearly eight years, to make a tremendous gamble on my idea. I co-founded Rolltape to enable audio messaging that seeks to put relationships first, so I could talk to my best friends again. Rolltape is one-part messaging and one-part personal podcasts: user-generated content brought to you in five-minute audio messages by your favorite people. Audio provides emotion and intimacy that is woefully lacking in today’s social media channels.
Now, everyday without fail, despite how busy I am, and in defiance of time zones, I get to have a virtual coffee with five of my favorite people. I send them my musings as I apply my makeup or walk to the office, and I listen to theirs on my commute home on the train. I’ve never felt so close to my childhood, college, and adult friends. These days, when I need a little help from my friends, their voices are already in my ears. Farewell emojii and long live voice.