Simon Sinek on Why Internet Friends Do Not Replace Human Relationships

In Chapter 20 of 20 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, author and leadership expert Simon Sinek shares why human, physical interaction creates deeper, more meaningful relationships than Internet communication. Sinek notes that sheer physicality limits the Internet and its communication tools - Facebook, Twitter, blogs - ability to develop lasting, trusted bonds. He finds the Internet great at three things: one, connecting people; two, finding and sharing information faster; and three, increasing transaction speed. The Internet does not however develop the human bonds and the associated trust, sharing, emotion and interaction that come with them.

Simon Sinek is a trained ethnographer who applies his curiosity around why people do what they do to teach leaders and companies how to inspire people. He is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". Sinek holds a BA degree in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University.


Erik Michielsen: How has social media culture shifted your view on relationships?

Simon Sinek: There was a time not long ago, you know, where relationships meant something different than they mean now. There was a time where – for example – you know, that a desktop meant something horizontal, and today a desktop means something vertical, right? I mean, that’s how technology has changed the definition of language. Um, when you say desktop, people think computer. 

You know, they don’t think a desktop, with a blotter and folders and things, that we actually now have on computers as well. Technology has also changed the definitions of human relationships. A friend is not somebody who you check their status, you know, your network is not on LinkedIn, a conversation doesn’t happen on Twitter and a dialogue doesn’t happen on your blog, you know? 

There’s a human experience, you know this, is an conversation, you know, this – it has reactions and advancing ideas, and it’s not just people taking turns to speak, which is what happens online. The Internet is incredibly, fantastic and valuable for three things. One, for connecting people. Amazing, amazing, right? Connecting people … for access to information, brilliant, right? And sharing information – access and sharing information, and for speeding transactions, to increase the speed of transactions. 

And it’s the Internet that has allowed people to build small business, because you can increase the span of transactions, you can connect to more people, etcetera. Find people from your child hood, whatever, Wikipedia - all this stuff, wonderful, wonderful. But the Internet is not great at developing real deep human bonds, where deep, deep, mutual trust exists. And one of the reasons is simple, is human bonds are human, and they require this, human physical interaction. You have to be able to look someone in the eye before you’re willing to trust them, right? 

This is why the videoconference will never replace the business trip. Because you can’t get a good read on somebody over videoconference. And even the blogosphere, you know, who, who, talks about that the Internet solves all problems, every year they descend on Vegas for Blogworld. Why couldn’t they just have their convention online? Why couldn’t they just all turn on their webcams and have a convention? They can do that, you know? 

No, it’s because nothing beats human interaction. And the amount you learn and the connections you make and the relationships you build, physically, are not only more efficient but deeper. And the Internet has yet to find a way that can reproduce them. You know, if others can say that it can, I’m open to it, but human relationships are in fact human. Um, and so, you know let us use the Internet for all that it gives us, and all its value, but let us not believe that it can replace things that, that are hard to replace.