Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Face to Face

Recently I read Anna Quindlen's LAST WORD in Newsweek... online of course. The article is in fact her literal last word for the magazine as she is resigning from her position of columnist with the news magazine after 9 years. Quindlen essentially details her feelings about the contemporary shifts in power from the baby boomer generation to my own via the dot com boom, affecting her directly as she witnesses the shift in news media. She writes,

One of those [world] changes is in technology, and because of it young people in the news business have been able to exact a kind of inadvertent revenge. They seized on an information-delivery system that their elders initially found puzzling or unpersuasive. They created online outlets from the ground up. Now that this is where the action is, they are quite properly part of the action, not because we made room for them, but because they invented room for themselves.

Her sentiments got me to thinking about this world we live in now in which any and everything that you can possibly imagine is available online. In fact, our lives are so much intertwined with online, it's a wonder people still interact face to face. What was the world like before you could meet some new today and then facebook them tonight, and pending their acceptance of your friend request, know pretty much anything you want to know about them without having a conversation?

I remember when Facebook was a social network only open to Ivy League schools. Us Barnard and Columbia students might not have witnessed its really early steps like the Harvard kids did, but my peers and I watched the site grow from a collection of one page profiles whose only application was an il-functioning web to show how you and your friends were connected, to an international social networking database with more bells, buttons and whistles than anyone should be expected to know how to manage if today was the first time they ever logged on.

It has become apparent to Quindlen and everyone else at the same time, that being technologically savvy is THE way to establish and market you, your business or anything else you care about. This means throwing yourself into a vortex of verbs that either didn't used to exist or almost exclusively mean something new in the internet context. In a given day I may friend/defriend, google, blog, tweet and follow, skype, meebo (aim/gchat/fbchat) etc. etc. etc.

Despite internet perks - easy and perpetual access to people and information with minimal effort - I've found that I now cherish actual human interaction more. Yes, I might follow your tweets and status updates, but when was the last time we had a conversation? And even if we text or send @replies all day, I really would just rather hear your voice. Spending actual time with someone is becoming as invaluable as soon-to-be antique print media that will one day sell for gazillions on ebay, if not already.

There is some serious bittersweetness when Zuckerberg who is my age makes a kajillion dollars as CEO of a company that only exists in the untouchable cyberspace, leaving people like Quindlen to think that the medium that she has worked in for 40 years is becoming obsolete. On the one hand I never would have had the opportunity to read her remarks were the link not shared via website; on the other hand, I'm really happy that I've read some of her novels and had the opportunity to hear her speak in person on several occasions.

Maybe my favorite encounter with her was when we exchanged pleasantries as she, alongside other Barnard faculty and administration, served the student body Midnight Breakfast before final exams. It was in this context that tangible social networking occured and it seems to me that getting the most out of this face time is becoming a craft and cherished opportunity, now more than ever before.


Alyce said...

I was absolutely shocked when I saw that she was stepping down. it was always the first thing I looked at when I picked up a newsweek. but she does have a point - at some point the baby boomers have to step aside. and the reality is that most aren't likely to do so as gracefully as she did given that they probably just lost a significant chunk of their retirement funds....

Sydnie said...

you're right about that. i mean i probably wouldn't want to step down either, lol. esp. when money is getting is tight as it is.


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