Saturday, July 19, 2014

Digital Intimacy

I recently saw a fascinating interview on CNN of a very smart business woman named Randi Zuckerberg.  Randi is the former Director of Marketing and Development for Facebook.  She is also the sister of Facebook's co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  In the interview Randi ponders the impact of technology (particularly the internet, but also cell phones, texting, twitter accounts, and Facebook) on modern society.  The fact that Randi's own brother, Mark Zuckerberg, essentially invented the way that modern society interacts through Facebook, made this interview particularly interesting.  The main focus of Randi's thinking is vast bourgeoning divide we are facing in the world today between:

Real Interpersonal Human Connection


Digital Intimacy

Randi talks about how we now have an entire generation of people in, mainly in America, who have most of their interpersonal human connection through technology.  Rather than talking face to face, even in a work setting where people's desks are right next to one another, people will text one another.  Rather than having meetings with groups of people, even who work in the same department of a business, we will conduct internet chat rooms.  Rather than walking into a boss and asking a few questions about a particular issue, we will just email them.

Randi warns, though, that even if technology affords instant connections between people, we shouldn't mistake those instant digital connections for real interpersonal human connection.  "Don't assume that just because your boss and you text each other regularly, that you actually have a close relationship with one another."  (Randi's comment reminded me of the old adage, "Don't assume that though you are at the boss's house for the annual Christmas party, that that gives you license to do the macharana on the dining room table").  Technology connects us in a much quicker way to one another than ever before, and yet it also creates a kind of wall.  It divides us more than ever before.

As a Head of Staff for many years of a church staff, I can relate with this dichotomy.  Very often, if I have had a staff member who was under the age of 30, and I have wanted to relate quick information or an idea that I wanted to share, I would text that employee.  In fact, what I found is that texting an employee who is under the age of 30, has had a much quicker ability to get the information across than having a 1 hour lunch meeting together.  On the other hand, I found that the more email and text messages that were exchanged between employees, the further apart, ironically people could become interpersonally.

Years ago, I saw a live stand up comedy show of Craig Ferguson.  Craig said that he had, in the past few years, received many, many emails from irate audience members who were upset about something Craig had said on his show.   These emails were scathing.  "Craig you are the worst comedian I have ever seen.  I hate you.  Your material is awful and atrocious.  You are not funny."  Craig would then sometimes pick up the phone and call people as a follow-up.  "Really, he would ask, you think I am the worst comedian you have ever seen?"  The person would then pause and said, "Well, you're not actually that bad, actually you are sometimes good."  Craig said that technology provides a false sense that we are very close with a person and can say anything we want to them, when actually it creates a kind of wall.  Craig then came up with a series of questions that he thinks all people who send emails should ask themselves.

1.  Does this need to be said?
2.  Does this need to be said by me?
3.  Does this need to be said by me now, on email?

Usually when we stop to answer these three questions, Craig muses, we realize that we don't need to send the email at all.

Two weeks ago I attended a church worship service in Ventura, California where the sermon was delivered on a large screen up front from another location.  Every other aspect of the worship service was the same as any service I have attended (ushers, worship songs, offering plates) but the sermon was broadcast on a screen.  It was a Digital connection.  The information was related on the screen in a very effective way.  But was there an interpersonal connection between me and the pastor preaching?  Does it even matter?  I am still asking myself these questions.

Every week I write a blogpost and you read it through the internet.  Thank you - by the way!  Through technology we are close to one another, and yet we are miles apart.  Information is conveyed, but is there human connection?  Perhaps there is.  You tell me:-)

Or just send me an email...

All For Now,

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