Friday, August 10, 2007

The death of networking

Over the past several years I've watched the infiltration of technology into my hallowed, sacred home-away-from home: the local coffee shop. At first it was just computers, and just a few. Most folks were reading their books, sketching or writing in their journals, or talking quietly with other coffee drinkers.

But then the computers started to become more widespread. Now it's rare to see anyone in the cafe without one; books might be nearby, but they certainly aren't the focus of activity. Pens and pencils have gone the way of the dodo. Eye contact, once frequent and pleasant as a person looked up in thought or to rest their eyes from reading, has similarly disappeared.

Within the past couple of years, little white cords started to appear in everyone's ears, connecting them even more intimately with their computer. What little eye contact remained with the influx of computers (when the door opened, when someone walked past) has been eliminated by each individual's sound-proof booth of technology.

It makes me sad; for myself and for my community. I met a number of good friends through regular run-ins at the coffee shop, I even dated several men I met there. Even the relationships that didn't turn into "hanging out outside the coffee shop" friendships were pleasant interactions that I looked forward to. Perhaps everyone already has enough friends - that's what is implied by the constant connection, IMing, and emailing made available by wireless internet. But like watching a couple sit together at dinner while they have cell phone conversations with people who are somewhere else...I wonder if we have lost the art of face-to-face conversation, the skill of meeting strangers, and the ability to focus on the person we're with at the expense of the multitudes who might want to talk to us.


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