13 January 2009

"I believe in introducing people to people."

I just listened to this story about Jim Haynes, a Louisiana born real-life networker. He currently lives in Paris and offers up his home as a place for people to come and dine on Sundays. He welcomes his home to absolutely anyone, they only need call or write to let him know they will be there. Over the past 30 years has had anywhere from 50 to over 100 people come for dinner each Sunday.

Jim has a talent for connecting people, but his talent extends far beyond the scope of adding Myspace friends and sending out bulletins. Jim is a master at real-social networking.

Much like fashion or music trends, I wonder if social media will have it's own cyclical nature. Now, social media is bearing the burden of why people are becoming more reclusive, out of touch with society, or socially awkward. A recent Vallywag article attributed the Internet's "dehumanizing effects" to the reason why we are currently so fixated on autism. Author Owen Thomas says that we connect with the concept of autism because we, as a society of Internet obsessed people, can relate to the symptoms. He notes that, "Instant messaging famously suppresses social cues. Needing to type ":-)" to communicate our pleasure may give the tiniest hint of what the disease may be like." Perhaps social media will one day come full swing; rather than pushing us away from eachother, it will bring us together, not only through the internet but in real time and space.

If all this is true, that we are gradually retreating into a world of entirely electronic emotional connections, then Jim Hayes gives us hope for how to translate social networking from pixels to people.

One of the reasons why social media strikes my fancy, aside from loving all the new gadgets and technology that come with the territory, is the opportunity to connect with people on a much larger scale than I could do face-to-face. Jim, somehow, has managed to interact with more people face-to-face than I think I could manage online. He knows people's names, stories, and personalities. He has the added benefit of interacting with them, truly understanding their idiosyncrasies. He doesn't need to emphasize each joke with ":))".

Yesterday, Jeremiah Owyang suggested people take a step back from such deep interconnectivity in order to gain a bit of perspective. I agree, it's nice to "get back to our roots" of interacting the way it was intended. Odd how normal human interaction is somewhat a thing of the past.

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