Power Lunch

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Power Lunch

Relax! Technology really is making us happier

Will Duke @WillDukeCNBC
Julia Wheeler and Veronika Laws | Digital Vision | Getty Images

You've heard the conventional wisdom about the fall of personal, face-to-face interactions. You've heard the doomsayers warning of the threat to humanity posed by a culture that makes it so much easier to email a co-worker, even if he's sitting two desks away. So are you terrified? Don't be.

Dr. Paul Zak, author of "The Moral Molecule" and founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, says connections between co-workers are no less gratifying when maintained through technology because the brain doesn't really care too much about the medium. That's especially true if you already have a personal connection with the person. Zak tells CNBC using technology to interact with colleagues is, "as gratifying as in-person interactions. That is, the stronger the connection you have with the person that uses social media, the more your brain likes it."

After several experiments where he measured physiological responses, Zak concludes that, "whether you use Facebook or email, texts or Twitter, they all seem to have about the same response…once you have established a connection in-person, you can keep that connection just fine," by using technology.

An increase in technology and worker satisfaction would seem inversely related if you listen to the pessimists or watch too many "Terminator" movies, But other data supports Zak's research. When Gallup polls asked employees how satisfied or dissatisfied they were with their jobs, 48% said "completely satisfied," the highest possible mark. While this may not seem like a staggering number, it's up from 42% in 2005 and way up from just 28% in 1989. Similarly, 71% reported they were completely satisfied with the relationship they have with co-workers, up from 64% reported in 2001. The numbers sometimes fluctuate year by year, but the up trend is clear over the longest periods of time.

Andrew Brodsky, Doctoral candidate at Harvard Business School, further helps explain this by pointing to research that shows that, "technology gives people a lot more freedom to decide when they're going to work and when they're going to respond to things." He also points out technology hasn't totally eliminated face to face meetings except in rare cases.

But both Zak and Brodsky agree that having an in-person interaction with someone is still better than via text or email. It's just that the technological alternatives aren't bad as the sign of impending doom.