Life Imitates Art Web

Kara Andrade has an interesting article on Forbes today talking about those who are always online. Yours truly was mentioned, as it’s true, I spend more time in the virtual world than I do in the supposed ‘real’ world. To me, the online world mirrors what’s happening in the real world, and they both impact each other. The power that we have to meet, talk, listen to so many others virtually far outweighs that of the conversations I can have in real life.

Although the power of face to face (non digital) conversations go much deeper than any online relationship, there’s strength in quantity, reach and spread.

Today, I had lunch with a former employee of Sun, who mentioned to me the very online and collaborative culture that the company has. Many work from home, or have private offices with sliding glass doors, the ability to connect, work, and communicate online is often the preferred one. This former employee mentioned that after awhile, it becomes a real hollow experience not to see people face to face, something we as humans crave and desire.

On Sunday, my kid sister graduated from UC Irvine (pics), and I attended the ceremony. The valedictorian references how his generation grew up on the internet (the first) and their online relationships in Facebook really defined who they were.

When you look at this interactive tool to see Technographics (how people use social technologies) the adoption for youth is astounding.

The question remains: Is this a generational thing that Gen Y will continue to communicate this way for the rest of their lives? Or is this a life stage experience where only the young participate online. I’m going with the former, expect to see my kid sister texting her friends until the next technology comes along, some sort of embedded in-person communication tool.

I’d love to hear from you:

  • White collar workers in America spend much of their time online, in fact the number one medium in the workplace is the internet, how does this impact our interpersonal skills?
  • What impacts does this have to our culture, especially for home, dating, and family?
  • Will Generation Y continue this adoption path? If so, what does that mean for the future?
  • Are you optimistic or pessimistic about technologies’ impact on our cultures?
  • I’ll answer below in the comments…

    18 Replies to “Life Imitates Art Web”

    1. well, some of us have the habits of gen Y, but in, face, in reality are older cohort of baby boom generation. Maybe it is because I have Gen Y kids … they keep me young and we’re online = but I’m trying to teach moderation, information literacy, and to turn off the damn computer and go for a walk once in a while.

      I wonder whether or not how lifestyle will impact GEN Y once they have kids of their own …

      Great post. Thanks.

    2. 1) For me, it’s improved, I can reach far more colleagues quickly. Sadly, it’s hard to express humor or discontent, so you have to pick up the phone or meet in person.

      2) I met my wife in real life (believe it or not) although I’ve seen stats where a large percentage of folks meet their mate online, that’s not uncommon, and certainly NOTHING to be ashamed of.

      3) The data that I’ve seen shows there is no indication that generation Y will change their behaviors, although they will have to adopt new mediums and new communication ‘styles’ in the workplace (such as the professional email)

      4) Optimistic. I’m looking forward to the embeddable communication device, after the first beta tests, I’ll be one of the first early adopters to sign up. Of course, I have to be able to switch it off when I want.

    3. I don’t think it’s related to age; I believe this generation will continue to interact this way, but the tools they use and the audience they interact with will change.

      I’m a bit older than Gen-Y (born in ’73), but I “grew up” online, just with different tools. It was BBSes, newsgroups, email, web, etc. It went from faceless local friends to fellow classmates to co-workers to faceless worldwide friends.

      In ten years it’ll be who-knows-what with who-knows-who. But the habits won’t change. And the world will continue to reward solid interpersonal skills, regardless of the medium.

      As for your last question, I am optimistic about the impact on our culture. The spread of information, even trivial information, yields positive results. It has the potential to build tolerance and diversity.

    4. I don’t think it’s age-specific at all. I was graduating from college when a lot of these young’uns were tots, and I live and breathe online. My dad (70-something) hangs out online with his Ford Mustang and Hudson Motors buddies – and meets up with them all over Southern California IRL. In fact, I think the virtual world is a huge boon to older people, who are often socially isolated by virtue of physical circumstances.

      For well over a decade I’ve been part of an old-school “social media” group (a listserv mailing list) of horse owners. It’s far from being faceless – many of us from all over the world have met in person, and are good friends. There have even been a couple of marriages.

      I am finding the same kind of thing happening with newer forms of social media. Like a faster form fo Rural Free Delivery postal mail, it helps people stay in touch with people, and solidifies relationships, especially those on the frontier, whether it be physical or virtual.

      I agree with David Spencer – this all has a great positive impact on our culture. We can be a lot more “equal” in terms of access to information, and being able to verify that information. It’s getting a lot harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

      The form may change over time – in fact, it’s been changing, this is just the latest iteration. There have been pen pals for making distant friends, phone trees for getting information out to groups in a hurry, public bulletin boards (the kind with push-pins) at supermarkets and feed stores…

      Y’know, the more things change, and all that.

    5. Gen Y will continue to spend more time in the virtual world than their elders, and likewise, succeeding generations will spend more time using evolved technologies than Gen Y.

      I™m more interested to see how digital media and new technologies will effect us physically, psychologically, and emotionally in generations to come. Will we become less aware of our physical surroundings? Will we be able to spend any extended period of time within our own minds? Will we demand others to respond to our shared thoughts and ideas ever more quickly?

    6. I think overall communications technologies will continue to be positive in building new communities and bringing old ones back together.
      Several years back some of the folks from Nokia discussed (in a Fast Company article I believe) how the high level of mobile usage and market penetration in Finland had reinvigorated communities by bringing people closer together socially even when separated by great distance. I believe that they considered this to be happening across all age groups, just at different adoption rates.

    7. Virtual world, as the way I experienced it, says little about the tone like how we can detect in face-to-face communication. Many “misunderstandings” arise out of this situation, we know it. And it’s notable that when misunderstandings arise, many experts recommend the resolution of conflicts via personal conversation as we would see in face-to-face communications.

      There’s no stopping of the virtual world in Gen Y, but I suspect they will eventually move over to “our” time where we focus more on individual attention rather than mass. Yet, the older generations will want to experiment the potentials of the virtual world. Who knows, we may see technologies fusing both virtual world and inter-personal communication in a more intimate way. Isn’t online conference a small way of achieving that? Perhaps in future, we would be looking at “on the move” more than static solutions.

      The only thing I would be concerned about, is the manner we read text messages in contrast to feeling the passion or emotion of a verbal speech in the face of somebody. It’s likely to merge in the centre than eradicate one another completely.

    8. 1/ Aussie living in UK, working from home mostly, online about 12 hours per day Mon-Fri. I completely abstain from technology on Saturdays and make sure I spend a full day out in the garden working the soil on a Sunday. My workmates and I use collaborative tools which means there is a lot of banter to and fro. I go out to client meetings which gives some human interaction, and we get together for a staff meeting at least once a week. Its a nice balance, working remoting does allow productivity to increase (for the right personality profile).
      I don’t really have a social networking life online, and have resisted it. I’m one of those annoying technology/s adopters who looks but doesn’t buy in. I need to know what it is capable of, but am not looking for the experience myself. So I’ll have a profile in most things but not really get the most out of them. Actually I’m not sure you can with so many so-called 2.0 web services.

      2/ Working from home means my wife and I spend a lot of time together, basically whenever I am on a break or am looking to feed my face. We also do some Chinese language elearning together online.

      3/ Yes, but I am expecting wearable computing and convergence to remove the ‘sit down at the PC’ time which will allow us to be out and about a lot more. Some work environments will always want to enforce ‘control’ and will likely still have a ‘station’ where employees sit and work and can be seen. Progressive companies will continue to embrace remote working.

      4/ I’m probably pessimistic. I love technology and am constantly wowed by the ‘next thing’, but kind of like the promise of atomic energy there is always that destructive outcome in the form of a bomb. I’m not talking terrorism but just that the human nature of our species can lend itself to gain at any cost, which generally means good things get abused. I’ll continue to approach each new development with optimism, and try to keep any cynicism in check.

      Thanks for the thought provoking post Jeremiah.

    9. I’m vey optimistic about technological adoption. Gen Yers have grown up with the fragmentation of choice – widespread Internet, mobile telephony, hundreds of TV channels – and it has made us much more savvy. Information asymmetries can be reduced, connections can become more constant, and the world has become a much smaller place.

      There are of course effects to this. I do see face-to-face interpersonal skills as being weaker (due to less practice perhaps), and we may be less physically active and more prone to develop eye strain.

      But on the whole, I am very optimistic and I see it as a trend that will continue to evolve. Taking my personal situation; I am better at my job due to the info available online; when I moved to a new city I was able to meet new people with similar interests very easily while keeping up to date with old friends; and while I do not know what my interpersonal skills would be like if I didn’t have the Internet, I am able to read a lot of blogs and articles about how to improve them

      Perhaps that is a trend to be concerned about? People spend more time in the “virtual” – reading about and simulating in, rather than “participating” in, in one sense of the word


    10. Hi J.O., you are a glorious, striving social media Crusader with so much to share! I just adore your stuff, and through every one of your posts, I gain yet another nugget of very valuable feedback. You’ve taught me so much already…

      Speaking from my comfortable perch here in the post-Communist world, in Prague, Czech Republic, I’d have to say the massive leap from virtually very little progressive technology (many people *still* didn’t have landlines during the late-’80s, if you can believe it!), to massive rollout of mobile technology, onto chatting clients (not to mention the social networking thing, which does’t seem to have caught on so well here in the Czech Republic without a suitable client in the vernacular), then to wi-fi, I’m going to cast my pessimistic vote for this being very ominous for Czech society overall.

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had colleagues, friends, and relatives conduct their personal and professional lives via text messaging and email as if it were a replacement to actually being there.

      11th-hour meeting cancellations via SMS, leaving critical information for clients and colleagues by email, then watching the stew in their own juices, perplexed the next day at the office when you suddenly arrive at the office only to realize that because you weren’t trigger-finger alert to receiving an email you weren’t completely updated. The notion of perhaps having rung me just didn’t, er…compute, for some of my former co-workers. (Whatever happened to reaching out and touching someone?)

      Don’t even ask about some of the more passive-aggressive behaviours which the majority of locals manifest (which is doubly exacerbated through email and comment fields on local blogs and such — ouch!). The faceless nature of email and texting gives people heaps of “Dutch courage,” the kind you’d get from downing a bottle of Stolichnaya in ten minutes flat.

      I’d have to say that within our emerging economies, chatting and texting is distancing us more and more from each other. It’s not being properly reeled in. We don’t have the discipline of a more established democracy and economy to be toying with these technologies to the level that we have…at least without any sort of heavy ramifications.

      While I conduct most of my affairs online and have even met some truly fascinating people through strictly electronic means, I can safely say as a ’70s child I succeed at this (where Gen Y’ers simply won’t) because I’ve live in both real and virtual worlds. The latter tamed as a result of my significant experience with the former.

      The social networking rulebook is still being written in our part of the globe, to be sure.

    11. I’m both optimistic and pessimistic.

      Optimistic because we have tools for personal connection that enable the spread of ideas, for the collaboration of small groups of people who can achieve big things and for the further democratization of political processes. And the stuff can be real nerdy-cool.

      Pessimistic because if these tools physically separate people from each other, we could see more alienation, isolation (and depression). Also there is an addictive quality to these tools, so if people don’t establish healthy habits, we could also see an increase in the depressive kind of anxiety that accompanies addiction. Already, I think, there are many addicts (people use the term lightly, but I think the problem is getting more serious than is realized).

      Which view prevails for me? Generally I’m more optimistic. But there’s no substitute for good old fashioned face-to-face smiles, handshakes, pats on the back, hi-fives. It’s wired into us.

      Perhaps we’re in a transitional period, where the tools are rough and primitive. Perhaps these tools will evolve and become more refined to the point where we’re no longer using these tools at desktops, laptops and mobile devices. As the technology becomes cheaper, better, more embedded, we might see a sort of liberation, where we get back to face-to-face interaction enhanced (not degraded) by technology.

      That’s my hope. That these tools will return us to home, not some isolated land of canned sardines.

      And Gen Y isn’t really that special in my opinion. They’re human beings like the rest of us. Same problems. Same solutions. It’s just that they were born in a time where Moore’s Law is creeping into our lives. They’re just more acclimated to the technology. And not everybody in Gen Y is the same. We use that term a bit too liberally and I fear we’re putting labels onto people which might not be accurate. It’s easy to impose new prejudices on people. But it’s very hard to take those prejudices down.

      I say: let’s give what we call Gen Y a chance to be seen as normal human beings who are simply facing challenges and opportunities that are new. People-labeling is dangerous. History backs me up.

    12. Being a Millennial, or Gen Y’er, myself and growing up with the Internet, it’s hard for me to see a life that isn’t integrated online.

      Here at work (I write for an online publication), the Internet has taken over as the main form of communication. Although it makes for a pretty quite office, I’m not convinced its impact on interpersonal skills is incredibly significant or negative. People who want to connect face-to-face will and do, while those who want to slave away in front of the monitor without much interaction will do so.

      In terms of the effects on our culture, well, take this for example: when companies or nonprofits decide to use the Internet for advertising, fundraising, membership drives or what have you, the Internet (or its tools) doesn’t necessarily take over one aspect of the company nor does it become a separate silo, rather, it is fully integrated into all parts and used to optimize and enhance each. That integration is true for life, it being in the home, dating or the family.

      I am very optimistic about the technologies’ impact on our culture. I think it’s easy to use the Internet as a scapegoat for some of the ails of our society — the lack of social skills of some, lack of face-to-face communication, etc. — but that stuff has been going on well before the advent of the Web. Yes, the Internet makes being a hermit a lot easier, but I believe as Gen. Y’er grow older and younger generations emerge, people will adapt to the new technologies and learn to balance it with “real” life because in the end, we all need some sun and some real laughs.

    13. I met my wife in real life (believe it or not) although I™ve seen stats where a large percentage of folks meet their mate online, that™s not uncommon, and certainly NOTHING to be ashamed of.

      If it wasn’t for on-line dating (where I met my wife), I could very well have become, in Chris Rock’s words: “The oldest guy in the club”. Thank God that didn’t happen.

    14. I think the distinction between online and offline is disappearing. The web is like the telephone – it isn’t some “other” thing.

      I lets us do more of what we want to – efficiently – and independent of space and time.

      This is generation and age independent. The tools will evolve, but this genie is not going back in the bottle.


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