“The Internet killed community”…REALLY???

the internet killed community

By Kenneth Justice

~ I was meeting with the owner of a coffee shop recently talking with him about coffee house culture, “The Internet really has killed community” he said, “When I opened up my first coffee shop ten years ago it was an entirely different feel. People would come in here all the time simply to hang out and meet people. It was like we offered an alternative to the bar scene for people that don’t want to get drunk. But now, well just look around, every person in here is glued to their damn computer and so disconnected from each other” he said

At times I feel like my articles sound like a broken record; community, connection, conversation; too often I write about the same themes and I wonder if I’m putting myself in jeopardy of losing readership. However, because every weekend I jet off to a new city to visit different coffee shops; I simply can’t ignore how much the computer and the Internet has changed the Western World.

Sure, I’m still meeting people; strangers, readers, fellow bloggers still come across my path and I count myself very blessed to make these connections; it’s been an incredible opportunity to meet so many different people and hear their stories and learn from their lives.

Yet……I’m often left with an empty feeling

I was having a conversation with a young man in Pittsburgh this past weekend; a late 20’s pharmaceutical engineer and transplant from the East Coast, he sat down near me and didn’t have a computer. Within 10 minutes of him sitting down he struck up a conversation with me and we ended up talking about dating, drinking, pharmaceuticals, his college years spent in Chicago, his dog and the dog walking service he pays for every day, and a bunch of other things.

It was a good conversation and the young man was a wealth of information about all things Pittsburgh. Yet half-way through our talk, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a young lady sitting alone across the room. She was one of the ‘zoned out behind her computer people’ and she had taken a moment to watch us. It was obvious that the young man and I didn’t know each other and for just a second I could see in the young woman’s eyes a sense of jealousy; she wished she was a part of our conversation. It was obvious that she wanted to walk across the room and connect; perhaps she had grown tired of looking at photos of random people on Facebook, perhaps she had grown tired of instant messaging a friend who was talking about the type of food they were having for breakfast.

The young woman wanted to connect…..but she couldn’t pull herself away from her computer. It’s possible she was too nervous to walk across the room and sit down with us, yet I have to ask; before the dawn of the 21st century Internet age were people as afraid to connect with strangers over coffee?

Isn’t that really what we are living in; the Internet Age? The rise of WiFi, social networking, blogging, and all things to do with the Internet. And who am I to complain; if not for the Internet you wouldn’t be reading this article and I wouldn’t be traveling to city-after-city meeting with fellow bloggers around the world.

The Internet is a marvelous tool; but just like other tools if we aren’t careful it can end up destroying the last remnants of unrehearsed community that still exist in Western Society. Henry Ford set out to make the automobile affordable for the average person. Yet in his quest to make quality affordable cars; the long-term impact was a massive spike in teen-related automobile fatalities, immense increases in pollution, and a death-knell to many cities where thanks to the automobile people moved to the suburbs by the droves turning many urban areas into ghost towns.

Every day I struggle with the themes in which I write about because on this coffee house tour the most obvious trend I’m seeing at every coffee shop I stop at is people who are sitting so close together; yet because of the Internet they are all so far away from each other. In some ways this disconnectedness I see at coffee houses is a good metaphor for many American families; parents and children who live under the same roof yet barely talk to each other.

For years, sociologists and psychologists have been talking about the breakdown in communication among families and among couples. Too many men spend more time with their fantasy football relationships then they do with their significant other. Too many fathers spend more time zoned out in front of the television then they do kicking a soccer ball around with their children.

I started this year long tour in Costa Rica during the first week of January and the differences between Latin America culture and the United States are immense; it’s much easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger in Latin American than it is here in the States. And while I could talk about their more laid back attitude, more openness to conversation and other elements of Costa Rican culture; the most obvious difference is that a very low percentage of Costa Ricans sit in public places with computers. It’s a lot easier to talk to someone who isn’t staring blanking at a computer screen.

Of course, I’ve written this an entire article while sitting at a coffee shop……so who am I to judge?

Kenneth

P.S. I’ll be in Philadelphia this weekend!



Categories: Culture & Society

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108 replies

  1. Community is different online than it is in person. I think what it killed is the lack of people talking or communicating face-to-face. What is the point of learning how to socialize if everyone just texts other people even when they are in the same room? None of my friends or family watch movies anymore either. They all sit with their ipads or on their phones and do other things then get pissed off when they miss a pivitol point in the movie. I personally hate having to explain every detail that has happened and not be able to enjoy a movie myself… Or dinner for that matter without people using their cells. It’s so rude and inconsiderate to not communicate with people directly.

  2. Who are you to judge? A thoughtful person who sees both sides. Who better?

    For me, the devaluing of real connection is one of most damaging things about this form of communication. Just as people will say terrible or just rude things behind a screen, some also move into a false intimacy that is just as disturbing to me. Being called someone’s dear friend when I have had almost no contact with them even on the interwebs creeps me out a little. It isn’t real. I want real. I don’t have enough real in my life except for right here at home with Papabear and with a son who is half a world away. And I honestly don’t know what to do about it anymore. Maybe just accept it?

  3. I think you have to see each community for what it offers- online, you can find people who share something incommon with you- like a rare genetic disorder and find support where as in the “real world” that might leave you socially isolated. I believe like anything there must be balance and i think slowly but surely the pendulum will swing back… so long as we lift our heads up long enough to not get hit by it ;). Great post.

    • I agree regarding different types of communities. I am very hard of hearing and going to a busy coffee shop would like being side a beehive – full of buzzing noise. Before there were iPhones there were books and I would be the one in the corner, by myself, reading a book. Unless, of course, there were ASL Signers present, in which case I’d be signing (even across a room) with them. For me, the net has leveled the communication playing field.

  4. “people who are sitting so close together; yet … are all so far away from each other”

    Dropping pebbles Kenneth, keep dropping pebbles. The ripples are rippling.

  5. I have observed the same thing that the coffee shop owner has. Even just five years ago many more people would strike up conversations with me in coffee shops. Now they look like diads in business meetings. I have overheard lawyer/client, Realtor/homeowner, insurance salesman/buyer and even computer daters “interviewing” each other. To break the ice now requires much evaluation of the person’s personal space and boundaries. There is almost an unspoken pact that you can be in a coffee place and left alone if you want. I am meeting a very boisterous male friend of mine this morning in my “new” coffee place. He introduced me to several regular “characters” at the place. A man named Charlie with a dog named Lucy. She is a hospital care dog so I guess the owners don’t mind her being inside. I think the owner is too much of a “talker” for me. He does very little listening. I think people want real conversation.

  6. I think there is room for both. The Interweb isn’t all bad and it is what you make of it. If there is anything – anything at all I want to look into further – Google it and blamo – there it is on your screen. Everything in moderation too; you need balance in all things. Heavy to one thing or another, well, that would seem like an obsession of sorts; that isn’t anything new. I think the Interweb has demonstrated the power to unite communities on many fronts and am thankful for most technology. Balance people – seek it!

  7. A very interesting post. I think there’s a real dichotomy in the relationship that a digital native has with the internet versus someone my age (5 days before 50), or older. My own kids (26, 23, & 20) are fairly plugged in, as are their peers. I feel like my life is pretty balanced. I spend a small part of my day with the global community online and the majority of my hours interacting with people face-to-face. I workout most days at a wellness center where a lot of elderly people hang out during the day. They’re so naturally approaching and friendly. In just a couple of weeks of going there, I got to know most of the regulars. I do think the internet has changed the way we communicate, but everything eventually changes–let’s just hope we’re evolving and not devolving in this process!

    • Great example; a lot of this could definitely be connected to age…. because Ive noticed that older people at coffee shops are much more open to talking to strangers and connecting for sure.

  8. I love my computer, but I agree. We are not community minded liked we used to be. I can strike up a conversation in a grocery checkout line and not think anything about it. I need connection once in a while, but I don’t know how I would survive without the people in my laptop.

    • I’m definitely with you; I don’t know what I do without my computer… perhaps write with pen and notebook like I used to maybe? I dunno…. but I’m thankful for my computer for sure.

  9. We want and are pushed to do more in less time. A PC helps with that since we can work on it all the time wherever we are.

    I beg to differ in saying, you could have still done the tour. But in stead of blogging you might have written it in a book. Would one still have the same amount of readers.is than the bigger question. And would that matter?
    Do we want a legion of likes. Or at have one true reader.

    We want to beloved and liked by many. When all it takes is just one.

    I write there for I am. And each who reads my work is a blessing to me.

    So do we seek fame of stay close to who we are?

  10. Recently read that Starbucks has become a global phenomenon, transforming the way people—Americans in particular.The first Starbucks store was opened in Seattle, Washington, in 1971 by two teachers and a writer who wanted to sell high-quality coffee beans and machines. It has since grown into a multibillion-dollar corporation with thousands of coffeehouses worldwide. Nowadays you walk in in Starbucks feels like you stepped in computer class ..lol
    You are like the priest: Do what I say, not what I Do!! Lol
    I think that primitive ppl make more connection; more modern life style, less human connection .

  11. I didn’t visited Costa Rica, I wish, but I’ve been in different places, Cuba, Thailand, USA, it’s true what you say, but on the other hand the internet keeps you connected with those people from abroad, they are all starting to have the benefits of internet as well, today I’ve talk to my poor Masai friend trough Facebook. Yes they do have it and I am always glad to hear news from my Cuban friends as well. Thanks to the internet cafes over there! but it’s also true that in western countries we do kinda live for it, put it provides you with so much. Personally I was born in the seventies and it’s true when I was younger people where more outside which was fun but a lot depends on yourself. I have an thing, I always talk to strangers, I loved to listen to what they have to say, but it’s not that it’s way easier in non Western countries, it’s just depends on the people. I am from Europe and I do think it’s even easier to talk to strangers in the us then in Belgium. People are more friendly and don’t look at the ground so much. All the people i have talk to in the usa still keep in tough witch I find great! Due to the cold weather here in my country, everyone stays inside and is getting a bit depressed, the moment the sun gets out, we are all going out to enjoy the warmth of the sun and forget our computers for a while 🙂 and have a nice pick -nick or BBQ instead. 😉 Thanks for the article.

  12. Yes, the internet tubes (T. Stevens) are great for providing vast amounts of information. So much info…it is a challenge how to cope with it…what to do with it. I like having access to it.

    The devices we use focus our attention and exclude the surroundings. They absorb us. You can’t help it. Some people use their devices of phones or tablets to exclude the immediate world around them. They might not even be looking at the virtual world.

  13. Well said, buddy. And don’t worry about losing readers. I really believe there is and intellectual revolution being spearheaded by people (like me) who crave community and fellowship.

    Shane Claiborne said, “Community is what we are created for. We are made in the image of a God who is community, a plurality of oneness.”

    Keep doing what you’re doing. I hope to meet with you if you come through WV and I’ll bring friends.

  14. Wonderful piece. It struck a chord with me (and I promise this isn’t shameless self promotion…maybe) as I wrote a poem about a similar thing a while back. Feel free to have a read.

    http://richardmcallister.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/the-collective/

    This is something I think about frequently when on public transport, in a coffee shop or simply sat with my house-mates. The technological device has become part of conversation, who says we can’t multi-task! Or maybe I’m just not interesting enough to warrant somebody’s full attention…anyway, thoroughly enjoyable read :).

  15. Reblogged this on Open Jotter and commented:
    There is certainly truth in this. I spotted it when out for a meal with friends. 12 of us around a table. Five years ago we’d all be chatting and struggling to hear people more than two down from us. That night, I glanced down the table and nine of the twelve were looking at their phones.
    Low tech can be good at times.

  16. All very true! I wonder though if the cafe in question does much to engage its customers ? These days it seems as though businesses need to do more to get its customers involved, otherwise they will just stick to their smart phones. I’ve seen coffee shops offer things like trivia contests, poetry readings, music nights to let local high school kids perform, local art competitions, things like that. I’m sure it helps to make the place seem more like a “local” place.

    • All of those are good points because some coffee shops and cafes simply want to push the customers out; get them to buy food/coffee and send them on their way… but they aren’t all like that thankfully

  17. We live in an in-your-face, chip-on-the-shoulder society in which umbrage seems to be the preferred path to any interaction with strangers, or at least that’s the preferred depiction in film and TV. In this atmosphere, I think the computer is largely a defense against that danger when in a public environment. Look busy, and you don’t look like you’re poking your nose into other people’s business. Maybe that young woman was peering out from her fortress, and not as enthralled by her computer as it seemed.

  18. Reblogged this on Peaceful City Life and commented:
    The Internet, in my opinion, has enhanced community by leaps and bounds!

  19. Sometimes we need to take the bull by the horns and face the situation, ha!

    Two years ago, to my teenagers horror, I banned their cell phones (and other gadgets) from the dinning room table because they were texting each other across the table. It was tough at first but now we actually talk to each other!

    Having said that, I realize that banning existing ways of communication (internet…WiFi free zones)) is not the answer. The monster has already been released and a lot of people will be swallowed up in the frenzy. What we need is to realize what we have lost, and invent ways to reestablish live community.

    You (Kenneth) have found one way to do that…keep up the good work!

    ~ dave

    • Wow! It must have been a shock to their system? But it seems like a good idea if you ask me; if you’re sitting down with others at a meal…. is it really too much to expect people to interact?

  20. The more things change, the more they stay they same.

  21. I can see the reoccurring themes because I feel like I always leave similar comments. At the same time, I drink in every article you write, so you must have found a nerve in our culture. One of these days, I’m going to spontaneously speak to a stranger and see what happens.

    Who knows, maybe there’s a movement happening. I can’t be the only one who is thinking more about how we connect after reading your articles. I’d love to run a poll and see how many of your readers have attempted to step back from their computers and speak to a stranger just to see what would happen.

    • TK, YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO IT! Go to coffee tomorrow, sit down next to someone and say, “hello, my name is TK, how is your day going?” and see what the hell happens????? Oh gosh, it could totally begin a whole new series of articles for you; “TK speaks to strangers” 😉

    • Hahaha. Too bad when I go to Starbucks in the morning, I’m usually the only one there. But we’ll see. I think series would be more accurately named “TK is Bad at Socializing.” or possible “People Who Mistake Clumsiness for Cuteness.” The first entries would be “TK says hi and walks away.” followed by “TK say hi and the stranger walks away.”

      I guess this is a long way of saying… we’ll see.

    • I speak to strangers all the time, but I pick the time and place when I have a good chance of understanding what they will say in return.

      By age 65 about half that age group will have hearing deficits and many will not have hearing aids as they are not often covered by insurance. By age 75 about 2/3 of us will have hearing loss. In fact, hearing loss is growing in all age groups by leaps and bounds.

      I wouldn’t even make an attempt in a busy coffee shop or outside with traffic and pedestrian noise. In fact, I could easily see myself texting someone across the table from me just to understand what they were trying to say to me.

  22. Reblogged this on a stranger in my own land and commented:
    As great as technology is, I often lament the fact that we- as a society- protect our smartphones and internet connectivity more than we protect our character and humanity. You hit the nail on the head with this post!

  23. In my opinion…your are more than qualified to judge this trend in our society.
    In my own little word, I have seen this sad trend. I live in a town of less than 500 people. We have lived together and grown up together. Our familes have know eachother for 5 generations… and yet, we are just like every other town in America, the internet is causing a huge rift in the face to face community that small town America is known for. We no longer have front porch conversations because everyone is inside their house on facebook.
    Thanks for bringing up this conversation.
    Keep them coming. I can’t wait to read your blog every morning.

    • Great observation… though sad. Its such a bummer to me that small towns around America are becoming less and less connected…. seems like it should be the opposite

  24. Maybe it’s time for you to open a coffee shop where its fame is the things you do to facilitate connection, community, conversation between the people who come there.

  25. Loved your parallel with Mr. Ford. Thus few can live without a car. Same with the internet, like today I was trading outside of the office and the customer asked the bill online, so I had to ring up a colleague to make me a favor. Then blogging isn’t the death of the interaction or of a community. One is to leave a like and other to write (wink).

  26. Good post and I agree – there is a lot of value to having the Internet at our fingers, but we have paid a high price for it in terms of the loss of community. Everything in balance and everything in moderation would be great, but the post WW2 generations are used to instant gratification, instant credit and ‘as much as you want, when you want it’ – obviously that’s not true of everybody, but it is true of enough people to harm us as a society. Too much of one thing (being online) is leaving little space for the other valuable things we used to have. Great article. Thought provoking – thank you! TDx

  27. Erm – typing too fast as ever – the above should read ‘at our fingertips’! 🙂

  28. The Internet will never replace true communication, but it can connect us with people we can never see in person. Your blog has introduced me to so many people. I think that the total effect of the Internet is good.

  29. I was in a Panera this morning and saw 20 separate tables of people-couples, friends, co-workers, siblings-and all of them were either talking on their phones, looking at their phones, or otherwise ignoring the “other”. In most cases, everyone at the table was engaged to the world beyond their immediate surrounding. I wonder, then, why some of these people agree to meet if they don’t really meet. Is it simply to have a warm body present while eating a bagel and sipping coffee?
    I will make a concerted effort next time I’m in a coffee shop or local eatery to connect, not via WiFi, but via a cheery “Hi”. 🙂

    • Ha ha I was in Panera yesterday morning as well and same kind of experience! I often wonder the same thing; why go to coffee or out to eat with someone if you’re not going to interact with each other… what’s the point??? Great thoughts!

  30. We are losing something, the internet is changing us. As lovely as our internet friends and communities are, they are still a two dimensional version of relationships. We’re biological units, not flat computer screens with words on them. We need facial expressions, emotions, other people’s energy. We read all those signals, we mirror each other, we actually alter our thinking patterns based on live contact.

    I see how we have changed in kids the most. A few years ago the power went out, the internet was down, and the entire family was forced to….actually speak to each other. Oh the horror! We were perched on the edge of a complete meltdown. I jest, but the level of anxiety in young people who are temporarily forced to unplug is evidence that they don’t have the old fashioned skills that us older folks developed. Talking to somebody face to face is more uncomfortable for them. Finding ways to entertain themselves is an unknown.

  31. I have enjoyed this article. Thanks. In the 80’s I enjoyed coffee shops because I would meet people there (instead of clubs) and enjoy the company much more. I am glad you hound about this type of thing. If you come out to Seattle let me know I live there and would love to meet you at a coffee shop some place.

  32. I wonder what it felt like for people to use telephones for the first time. Did they say to themselves “damn I miss the lovely heartfelt letters we used to write.” There was something romantic perhaps in the written word across the miles, something deep and special.

    I guess it’s the writer in me. But I think the medium forces us to confront the harder question of who we want to be in the world. There are community building ways to use all forms of media and community killing ways. Commit to using all media at your disposal to engage and love others and now you are the kind of person you want to BE.

    Use your voice, your body, your words, your writing, your photography. We control what we do with what we’ve got.

    Thanks for stimulating the conversation, Kenneth! 🙂

    Three days!

    • Its funny you say this cuz two weeks ago I wrote the first letter I’ve written in YEARS and I mailed it via snail mail….. it felt so weird. I can’t remember the last time I did that… but I wanted to thank some people who let me stay with them on one of my recent trips………

    • Oohhh . . . It’s so luxurious to receive a letter these days! I predict much happiness upon its receipt 🙂 How very groovy of you to do such a thing. Writing a note of thanks is so elegant. How much are stamps these days anyway? haha jk

  33. I love the bit about Henry Ford. I often wonder whether it is more appropriate to judge people for their intentions or for the outcome. I tend to side with the intention part because that is what is at a person’s heart. There are so many other factors that play into the outcome but since it is impossible to prove what someone’s intentions are, society tends to judge outcome. I still think that Henry Fords comes out okay either way. People love their cars and are more that willing to look the other way when it comes to all the damage they have caused. I’m certainly in no position to judge. I just bought a Ford!

    • Henry Ford is definitely a polarizing figure; he hated the Jews, but he gave jobs to the poor and made people millionaires who otherwise never would have been. He gave us the ability to cross the country at an affordable price, but increased pollution and destroy public transportation in many cities……a lot of pro’s and con’s when it comes to the dude

  34. I remember watching a movie in school, some time around the mid seventies, about what the future would be like in the year 2000. In many ways it was a lot like living on the SS Enterprise except it was devoid of humans. When we arrived at the year 2000, I had to take stock of what I had watch twenty five years ago. The Internet was the closest thing to creating that universe that I saw as a young child. I was really glad that people still talked to each other and it wasn’t as sterile as it had been portrayed.

    I think there are enough rebels out here that we would never reach that kind of lifestyle, yet there are many who easily disconnect. Do they do it because it’s easy? Or because they lack social skills? Or is it simply poor manners? Out of the three…cell phone use at meal times is just poor manners. So who is correcting this behavior? If no one corrects it, many will fall out of communication.

    I fear marketing is responsible for the computers at coffee shops trend. FREE WI-FI…Come on in! Wouldn’t it be funny if they advertised FREE COMMUNICATION…Come be part of the community!
    I think it really boils down to people deciding that community is important and choosing to keep it alive.
    I find that I don’t generally inhabit coffee shops…but I get my community by taking walks. Everywhere I go…people are friendly and it seems they are pretty eager to chat as well. This happens when I garden too…people who I have never spoken to will suddenly start talking to me.

    • Marketing is a HUGE factor in all of this. Whether we like it or not, marketers are trying to target people in order to influence our purchases and when we aren’t aware of this I suspect that advertisers end up shaping and changing our culture in ways we don’t truly understand

  35. Sounds like I ever start a coffee shop I should display proudly a sign in the window that says “FREE COMMUNITY CONNECTION! NO WI-FI!” I wonder if that would draw customers in…..

  36. You hit home with your reflection on how the Internet and the social media change our way of life. But I don’t think we should be pessimistic. As long as enough people (like you and your readers) are aware of this danger for isolation, we will be fine. People still engage in conversations with perfect strangers. Maybe since I live in California where we are more outside due to the nice weather or just because California people are more extraverts than East coast residents, I still talk to people For Real. It demands an effort, that’s true, and sometimes I have felt a little awkward when in a cafe without my phone or laptop.
    But your tour is grand and I like how you make the effort to go see people and come back to us through your blog to share your impressions. People read differently but still read. Thank you for a thought-provoking post. Uplifting too despite the anxiety that our modern way of life triggers.

    • Location is definitely key; although I used to live in Florida and its a ton hotter than Cali, but I’d say that the people in California have always been more outgoing then the people who live in Florida. So part of it may be connected to weather, but part of it has to do with culture as well…… California’s are simply a bit more laid back than people in other parts of the country and that can be a good thing like your pointing out 🙂

  37. All of my college age and twenty-something kids came home for the weekend. It was great. More often than not, I would peer into the living room and see all five of them on their laptops or other mobile devices. I paused and wondered if technology is really making life better? Then why do I feel so sucked in?

  38. Jeez, I really like your writing and now I’m going to have to follow you. I look forward to reading about your thoughts and watching how many times you offend people.

  39. OMG! Ok, I have a ton to say about this. But then again, you did speak of lovely latin america 🙂
    “it’s much easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger in Latin American than it is here in the States”
    –This quote here is right along the lines of what I was thinking in the middle of your article where you mentioned the woman at the computer being jealous and maybe she was too nervous to enter the conversation. I instantly thought, “hahaha, not is Brazil. People have no problem just striking up a conversation or commenting on something.”

    “before the dawn of the 21st century Internet age were people as afraid to connect with strangers over coffee?
    –I don’t think so. Do you remember once I told you about a book called, “Foreign to Familiar; A guide to understanding hot and cold climate cultures”? How it talks about hot-climate cultures vs. cold-climate cultures? Anyhow, the author believes, and I agree with her, that there wasn’t this separation of the hot-climate (relational) and the cold-climate (task-oriented) ways of live during pre-industrial times. Actually, one of my next posts will be on this (along with the whole greek mind-set, “everyone should take time for a coffee –thanks to “My Life in Ruins”) 🙂

    “the most obvious difference is that a very low percentage of Costa Ricans sit in public places with computers.”
    –Same in Brazil. But then again, fear of being attacked and robbed could be a big reason for this. Plus, it’s just not common. If one were to do so, they would probably be looked at as a snob.

    I was in Canada two Christmases ago. I had a good time with my kids and I actually was a bit sad about returning. However, after being back for a bit, and getting back into Brazilian life, I really must say that I appreciate it. I really think that my family life, our relationships, and the simplicity of it all is so much more gratifying then the hustle and bustle, consumerism, and not to mention, cold weather up north.

    Great post Kenneth
    🙂

    • I’ve got that book title written down in my journal on my page of ‘books to read’ I just haven’t had a chance to get to it yet…I remember running across it a while back (before you mentioned it) and glancing through it I though, ‘wow, this is exactly the type of stuff I think about”

      I wish I could simply jump ship and move to Latin America….I’ve often thought about doing it…. but ultimately, I don’t think I could leave the Mid West full time because I’ve developed so many friendships and connections here I would feel like I would be wasting all the time I put into those relationships over the years…… but I do hope to one day have a place in Latin America that I spend the winters in at least 🙂

  40. CM you are hot mess; “However, because every weekend I jet off to a new city to visit different coffee shops;” I guess that is your way of doing the European city by city thingy people love to do at some point in their lives. 🙂 vw.

  41. Totally. I walk into them all over NYC and people have heads down with that weird glow shining back on them.

  42. “Before the dawn of the 21st century Internet age were people as afraid to connect with strangers over coffee?” I see what you are saying in your piece, and know all too well how zoned out people are. The way my last partner would zone out on his phone, or had to be prodded to put it away, was very frustrating and damaging to my last relationship. But I’d have to say the answer to your question depends on who you ask, and in my case, yes. First, I’m a woman. When strangers, mainly men, talk to me, I have to consider that they may be dangerous. But beyond that, I’m an introvert and a bookworm. Whereas many people today stare at computers and cell phones, I always had a book or magazine with me when I went places. I’ve never been one to work a room or strike up a conversation with strangers because, like many introverts, it just plain makes me uncomfortable.

    • You make a good point about being a woman…. but I wonder; did women ‘used’ to feel intimidated in talking to strangers in public places or is this a recent phenomena that has been brought upon us by the media and the way the news focuses so much on crime and what not.

    • Well, I’m 47, and “don’t talk to strangers” is something I heard as a child in school and from my parents, so I can’t blame it on the media.

  43. One of the things about the Internet is that it allowed “shy” or quiet folks to finally connect. Some people have a hard time connecting but the Internet made it easier – less pressure. The problem is people also used it as an excuse to not be careful with others’ feelings. As for community, it is terrible how people have confused the ‘Net as being connected.

    • Jen, true enough. But I’ve been working through some research studies on shyness and introvertedness as I believe there is compelling evidence that there are higher rates of it here in the Western World…. as though our culture increases the number of people who are likely to be shy

  44. I agree with your observations. The other day I was at a darling coffee shop in a hippie part of Manhattan, when a woman got up and yelled “Does anyone here have an outlet? I’m in a middle of a meeting and my power is dying!” The shop workers gently told her that there were no outlets and she blew her top when she realized she’d have to get out to continue her conference call. Coffee shops are certainly relaxing places to work, but more shops need to make it clear whether they want customers to sit and enjoy their coffee or they want to create an environment for people to work. I believe the lack of outlets is a clear enough sign that they don’t want people sitting on laptops for hours in their shop.

  45. Like all things in life…………BALANCE IS THE KEY.

    Not too much computer, not too much alcohol, not too much junk food, not too much raucous noise, not too much…….well……….anything.

    Find the balance in life and you’ll feel well-rounded and complete.

  46. I’m in North Carolina visiting from Spain. For me the most striking contrast to me comes not from technology but the strip mall. You can’t walk there. It has no centre. People drive by to get there coffee. I’m not judging, but I can honestly say it has been an extraordinary experience. Meanwhile the people we are staying with live in a “community” with large homes set back from the road. No one walks anywhere so you don’t bump into people in the street. On the hiking trails, however, people are warm, open and friendly.

  47. So, you are telling me here that it’s wrong to tweet my son when he’s in the same house as me… I think that’s what I’m hearing…
    🙂

  48. Hi Kenneth,

    I have this strange, crazy theory that the world is not going to hell in a handbasket, and that technology is not destroying community. In fact, I think technology is just one of the ways we humans are attempting to transcend the limitations of the material world and make human community more like what it is in the spiritual world.

    In-person relationships are great. But they are limited to the people who happen to be inhabiting the same physical space that we are. And those may not be the people with whom we have our closest bonds, or who can challenge us the most.

    The Internet allows us to connect with other people who share our loves, our beliefs, our struggles, without being limited by physical issues of proximity or distance. Automobiles and other technological forms of rapid transportation allow us to meet some of those people face-to-face once we have made that connection. The result is a vast web of relationships that would be impossible in this physical world without the aid of technology.

    I could go on and on about this. I’ve already written one article along these lines, focusing specifically on video games:

    Video Games, Virtual Reality, and Spiritual Reality

    I disagree with the common charge that video games are a negative and destructive force in society. I believe, instead, that they are one of the new ways that we are able to inhabit and explore the many realms of the human mind and spirit.

    I leave you with this thought:

    Without technology, there would be neither coffee houses nor a way to get to 100 coffee houses around the world in a single year! And even if you did, most of your faithful followers would never know about it. 😛

  49. agreed on your observations. There are to many people ADDICTED to their laptops, tablets, and phones. (I’m guilt). However, I do like to just sit in a coffee shop to just read and enjoy some quiet time away from the house. I was never one to strike up conversations with complete strangers, EXCEPT via the INTERNET, Especially Twitter. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are all on the east coast and we stay pretty well connected via the internet.

  50. I completely agree. I think there IS an imbalance which is why it is a problem. I’ve always been sort of shy and even dealt with some social anxiety but the thing is I CAN be social. What I’ve noticed with a lot of younger people (and I love teens, but this is just an observation) is that they actually have a harder time communicating face-to-face these days. Not only that people just seem generally more disconnected and okay with it.

    Of course the internet isn’t evil or anything but it’s becoming a crutch in some instances. I literally have a hard time talking to people because I have had a vocal chord issue for the last few years but making a connection with someone face-to-face is like gold. I appreciate my online “friends” but there’s nothing like human connection.

    I’m in the DC area, so will make an effort to meet you on May 3rd! I’ll be the chick with an afro and a scratchy voice 😉

    • ” is that they actually have a harder time communicating face-to-face these days. Not only that people just seem generally more disconnected and okay with it”

      So true!!!

      It would be awesome to meet you!!!

  51. Just an observation. Most what people do on their PCs is communicate. Who are they communicating with? Is the quality of that communication sufficiently adequate? Those things we do not know.

  52. The picture on the top of your post is scary. People barely look around anymore. They are killing each other in cars because they are texting and looking at things while driving. No on is PAYING ATTENTION to the things around them, they seem lost in cyberspace. People walk silently next to each other, both looking at their phones. They do this while eating together in restaurants. A baby in a highchair had his own iPad and played while his parents ate and looked at their own devices. They never said one word to the baby. The baby played games and didn’t look up. There will be names for the disorders this is causing, in years to come. Truly frightening. Lack of eye contact is common. I just read where our attention spans have dropped from 12, I think that was in 2011 to seconds to 8, right now. No one can pay attention for longer than 8 seconds. They have done studies ( saw one) where kids couldn’t finish tests because they lasted to long and they couldn’t keep working on them. They REALLY COULDN’T. I have no idea where this is taking us but it’s sure not closer together.

  53. Isn’t that really what we are living in; the Internet Age?

    I view it as an extension of the Information Age, so that would include the advent of the personal computer, as well as the rise of mobile computing.

  54. I agree totally with this article AND even when I try to create community f2f now like with meetups – I don’t feel like it works~ it is so weird!!! I feel like detoxing from the internet –

  55. I have no idea where to put this…so I searched for this older post of yours, which seemed fitting. your blog has grown so much since I began following it several months ago. I realize you are way too big and do not have time for these awards, but I wanted to know you have INSPIRED me personally with your writing and I have acknowledged it in my lil old part of blogging world 🙂 Have a great day!
    http://rantsandruns.com/2014/07/05/very-inspiring-blogger-award/

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