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Are You Socially UNsocial?

Cat and Dog at Computer

I give up.

Where is the sociability? As I sit here looking out the vast window of my local java joint, I’m feeling like a social animal. I look around, and it occurs to me that all of us here found our way to our local coffee house to meet up with a little bit of humanity rather than burrow in our homes blissfully steeped in isolation.

So what’s wrong with this picture? I’m surrounded by at least twenty peeps, my peers, all of whom are deeply involved with their lap tops, tablets or phones and no one is interacting with anyone…for hours?

For the love of God, why doesn’t anyone look up from their computer, throw a smile across the room, give a nod and share a little banter? How are the kids? What’s going on with your crazy boss? How was the movie? Did your wife leave you? Are you lonely? What about this global warming thing and what’s your take on the security issue for our Olympians in Sochi?

I teach and lecture the benefits of social media, and they are many. Reaching out on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google + has done wonders for my business. I’ve made some pretty fabulous friendships on the web and value them all immensely. It’s no lie that I’ve built my business on the back of social media and I’d be dead in the water without it. But I have to wonder: is it possible that social media is robbing us of our sociability? 

A writer’s life is, at times, isolating. Every once in a while when I run into a writing block, I head out to my local java joint and gain a little perspective.

Clearly I am overly social, striking up conversations in elevators, restaurants, grocery stores and banks. I don’t make an effort to do it, it just comes naturally. I compliment people, play with dogs, talk to babies, comment on the weather, all to people I’ve never met before and will probably never see again. It suits my comfort level, and always brings a smile to my day. It feels like civility, a tiny but important piece of humanity … to share a kindness or conversation with others.

Not much sharing goes on these days between strangers. I’m not at all sure that we are the better for it. People walk the streets looking at their phones, rarely watching where they are going, or listening to something far more important that life with their ear buds.

Looking across the large room of coffee house dwellers, I can’t help but notice how average, normal and social we all look.

As I sit here in the mecca of sociability, the hub of activity, I’m getting the creepy feeling that we are all far from it. 

Maybe next time I’ll just stay home with the dog and the cat. They never cease to make me feel like I’m worth their time.

It seems that when we are searching for a touch of civility and  humanity, it can be more easily found in the animal kingdom.

Something to think about.

 

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Scott Morgan - Eerie. I was just thinking this the other day, out for a beer, realizing that if you’re not already there with someone you know, you’re not going to get into a conversation with anyone. At a bar, no less. Even there, greased by alcohol, we’ve lost the ability to talk to each other. Not good for a social pariah like myself who’d like humanity to reach out every now and again. Nice piece, as always, Tammy.

Joan Cooper - Who was it that said – ‘Animals understand what humans don’t……life is to have fun’. How many humans do you know that make ‘fun’ a priority?

I fear for what is called civilization and have for a long time now. Why don’t they teach it in school? The machine has certainly changed humanity and much of it for the good, but this machine communication thing is too too scary. Draw the line people.

Some years ago, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), put ballroom dancing in their curriculum. Why? They said it is not enough to have a skill. That is a mouth full.

As always provocative as you are, Tammy, I wish I had the lack of fear to acknowledge Facebook etc etc.

Joan

Frankie - If you haven’t already, go see Spike Jonze’s movie, “Her” It beautifully conveys the sentiment of how society claims to be so social, but really in truth we are very isolated. It takes place in Los Angeles in our not so distant future. You will appreciate it.

TanaBevan - One thing history has proven, ad nauseam, is the pendulum is in perpetual motion. Right now the social skills of the one-on-one nature are ebbing counterpoint to the rise in “let’s hang together in our aloneness.” In a few years there will probably be a “movement” of some sort to get people talking to one another again. The movement will come with certain buzz words, protocol, maybe even logos and t-shirts.

A few “movements” of today which come to mind (that were par for the course back when) include:

*breast-feeding
*recycling, repurposing, reusing
*time banks (euphemism for bartering)
*apprenticeships

mel glenn - Dear Tammy,
A true and observant column that points out that while we may crave sociability, we are afraid of intimacy. We bury ourselves in modern technology because it provides a filter between us, in effect saying, get close, but not too close. We rely on old familiar ways because we don’t want to entertain risk; we prefer our lives simple, without entangling alliances while at the same time crying out,metaphorically, “I’m lonely, I’m lonely.

Tammy - Hi Scott, Clearly we should be living close to one another. I’m totally tied into my social media and love it to death for what it does for me. No lie. BUT, it doesn’t negate my need for social contact. To make a new friend, share a joke, listen to a story, contemplate the worlds problems. It wasn’t that long ago that we could be assured of that with a quick pop in to our local watering hole. Scary stuff. The other day I saw a well dress woman walking the street, nose in her phone, as she slammed right into a large concrete trash can. My inside voice was screaming “that’s what you get when you’re not in the present”, my outside voice helped to pick her up and ask if she was okay. She didn’t even thank me. What the hell are we coming to?

Tammy - Hi Joan, “draw the line, people” is the best quote of your post. That would solve so much. We need to draw the line and pull the plug. But few do. We are finding ourselves more lost in the fog of social media, never ending news broadcasts, updates, the list is endless. Best we all remember that our life isn’t. Skill is NOT enough. Heart and soul are required for the living of a purposeful life. Just ask my cats and dog. They live it every day. Facebook, etc. didn’t require bravery, just a resignation of it’s influence and power and the harnessing of it to move myself forward. But the real power comes from harnessing our real lives. Good luck with that!

Tammy - Hi Frankie, I haven’t seen it yet and wasn’t planning on it, but you have peaked my interest! It is now on my list. Interesting concept … one that doesn’t seem all that far fetched to me. I have to wonder what that says about my outlook of things. Meet you back here once I’ve seen the flick! Very happy to have you here!

Tammy - Tana, interesting outlook. Everything does come around and go around. Time will tell. But for this moment, I’ve got to share that I’m not a huge fan of where things have gone and are headed. Technology will never be more interesting than people. That, I’m afraid, would be a hard concept to sell these days. More the pity. So appreciate the read and the comment! Thanks for that.

Tammy - Hi Mel, it would be interesting to note the scale of suicides these past few years compared to a decade ago when technology didn’t suck us dry. I remember a plane flight home not too long ago, where I sat next to a man with earplugs in his ears. I noticed that they were dangling loose, not plugged into his smart phone. I don’t think he realized it, as he held his phone as if he were listening to it the entire 3 hour flight. I concluded that he was simply putting out a “Do not disturb” sign. I respected it. Unplugged from everything is no way to go through life. My humble opinion. I do so love your take on it, and agree in every way. There is a lot of “lonely” out there.

Kitt Crescendo - It’s occurred to me that Starbucks, for writers, is a place to get out into the “real world” and interact, maybe people watch. For everyone else? it’s either a place to see and be seen (strange to think of Starbucks as a status symbol place, but it is) or it’s a place for business folks to conduct interviews.

Social media has actually hurt face to face human interaction. How often do you go to restaurants and watch two people sitting directly across from each other, but focused on their phones. Have you ever texted someone who was actually with you instead of opening your mouth? I have been guilty of both…and I’m pretty danged social!

Tammy - Kitt, its weird about the whole Starbucks phenomenon. I do love their coffee, though. I often see people, entire families that are together but not really. I wonder if it will ever revert back to the personal conversation, the slight touch on the sleeve during a compliment? At this point, the jury is still out. It all happened so quickly. I, like Scott Morgan below, miss it something terrible. I still get plenty of chatter when I go after it, but, just like sex, it would be nice to not always have to be the “aggressor”. Does that make sense? My daughter always said that I could have a fab party all by myself, and at the end of the evening a dozen strangers will have joined in and we would be eternal friends, all of us. Probably true. I’d rather be that person that the one who never thinks to look up. Thanks for the read, Kitt…and the awesome comment!

Carol Cassara - I always notice the same thing. Although I have no interest in establishing a long interaction if I’m at a coffee house, it would be nice to exchange a few words of greeting.

Tammy - Hi Carol, you just never know what may come of a conversation, however brief. I booked a primo gig once that came from a convo at a Party City store. Yup. Also, established a long term friendship from a visit on a plane ride. Never gave it any thought at the time. But, I think I appreciate what I affectionately call the drive-bys the most. Those quick interludes with random people. A glimpse of a life. Awesome!

Angel The Alien - I recently embarked on a project that led me to look through a lot of my town’s old newspapers from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. They had a whole section back then on the little things going on around town, like who ate dinner at whose house and whose kids were sick and who was going on vacation. It made me feel sad to think how, back then, people used to rely on other humans for company, entertainment, and a sense of connection… and how we’ve lost that. It made me wish I lived back then! Except I’d probably miss my blog.

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