Face to face

My freshman year of college (2001), I thought it was weird that people would IM people when they where just down the hall. I quickly found myself doing it realizing that I could talk to everyone on the hall AND pretend to do my homework, and surf the web all at the same time.

One night late at IHOP (2005) I was sitting at a table with a friend, his date and her sister, you can see where this is going. I actually thought the sister was cute, so instead of pretending to go to the bathroom and dragging him along like a couple of middle school girls, I texted him to ask him about her, and if she may be interested, I also asked her sister something of the sort. They both pick up there phones and then I see her pick up her phone, realizing that one of them texted her. within 30 seconds everyone is on there phones texting and I feel like we are in 7th grade passing notes. I couldn’t stand it that long and turn to her and start conversation to end the weird circle of texting.

then when I first met my wife’s family (2006), they are all a bunch of NERDS! I was baffled to find them all one saturday morning in the living room together. I thought oh, how cool, a family that spends time together casually. Then I realized that there where 5 people using 6 computers, and that no one was verbally talking to each other. I sat down and picked up my laptop to check my e-mail, thinking that everyone was busy working on something important. Then my wife IMed me. I wasn’t 6 feet away from her. apparently they were all doing something. but in addition via e-mails and IM’s they where plotting a surprise for her mother while she was in the room. Almost everyone was in on it. The weird part of this communication was that you knew what you said, and what was said to you, but because we weren’t in a chat we had no idea what was being said to mom.

So these are a couple of random stories of my experience of using electronic comunication despite the ability to talk to people face to face. The reason I bring all of this up is because I was in a lecture on the NASA campus where someone explained the trends of human society and claimed that by the time my children (they aren’t born yet) are in college that it will not be in person.

He claimed that people will replace almost all of there face to face duties with electronic equivalents. He went on to discuss how that there are certain jobs that would seem to need a human touch. Obviously doctors are not being replaced, but a piece of equipment can often times do what there skilled hands cannot, and it may not be too long before they are no longer holding the scalpel.

an tangible example he gave was hospice/nursing homes. You may think that the elderly would prefer to talk to someone. In japan a robot was developed to give them there daily medicine, bring them drinks, etc. After a brief period the patients came to prefer the robot to the person. They resented a person for telling them what to do in there current position, but they thought of the robot as more of a helpful pet.

What do you think? will face to face interaction become obsolete. Think about this as you are reading a blog and posting a comment as opposed to sitting down in a meeting discussing it. How many times would you rather conduct business via teleconference, e-mail, text, etc. rather than sitting in a meeting discussing it in person.

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3 thoughts on “Face to face

  1. Maybe it’s because I’m so old and all (I turned 36 this week) but I don’t think face to face communication will ever replace certain aspects of communication.

    You can’t replace the trust and speed a relationship can be built with a single face to face encounter. It’s proven that online relationships can be just as strong as offline relationships, but a combined on/offline relationship will always be stronger than either one without the other.

    There is so much that can be done virtually, but unfortunately 90% of our communication comes from non-verbal cues. In situations where non-verbal doesn’t matter (i.e educational environments) then yes those can be replaced.

    Only time will tell what impact technology will have on our lives, but in almost every case to date, computer mediated communication becomes a supplement not a replacement to face to face communication.

    No matter how many details your wife’s family hammered out online I bet the plans were finalized face to face.

  2. I really agree that face to face communication can’t be replaced.

    “computer mediated communication becomes a supplement not a replacement to face to face communication.”

    I think that is very accurate. When the person giving the lecture said that personal interaction would go away the audience was pretty upset. But I am very interested to see where things will go.

  3. I couldn’t agree more – I do think we are quickly moving toward a world with minimal face-to-face human communication. It’s so much easier to interact with someone from the safety of the space behind an LCD display than it is to have to sit in awkward silence or make conversation with *strangers* in the real world. Granted, I think that those individuals who become a part of our personal sphere of *friends/family* will be partially exempt from that as your examples show, but as I see increasingly in my real world business encounters, people have lost the art of conversation and face-to-face networking.

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