the humanization of the Internet

Get-off-the-internet-and-get-a-life-cjmaddenI had lunch the other day with Tim O'Brien, who is the Executive Director at the Huffington Post.  We covered a variety of topics but one that really stuck with me was one that I spoke about, the humanization of the Internet.  He really pushed me on this topic commenting that he had not thought about this before. 

So what do I mean?  Technology is certainly something we are not giving back.  At one point down the road there will not be an industry that hasn't been touched by technology.  Who would have thought 5 years ago that looking for real estate would move from print into the web?  That we would communicate in 140 word sound bites.  That we would consume daily information through photographs on our phones.  That we would check into locations and get tips, a discount and an acknowledgment of our loyalty through a badge.  That we would wait until noon for the doors to open online for a sale.  That we would read books on a small piece of hardware.  Obviously a few who invested in these ideas but most people had no idea what was coming down the pike. 

I remember when I got my first ATM card, back in the 80's and how life changing that was.  I remember seeing a smattering of people in the early 90's walk around the street with huge wireless phones thinking to myself why do they need to have that constant communication.  I know now the answer because you can and once again it is life changing.  Once you are given the opportunity, through technology, to live in a completely different way that is more efficient, I can pretty much guarantee that you aren't giving it back. 

So we are living our lives with all cylinders going full tilt.  When we finally do put down our phones, computers, iPads and alike we breath.  What I believe is happening is we are yearning for a desire to create more human connections.  That is why we are seeing an army of entrepreneurs seeking out their own businesses one day at a time.  Many of these businesses are not about the tech start-up but becoming bakers, cobblers, restaurant owners, chefs, pickle makers because each of these businesses connect people back to their roots.  It is a disruption of everything.  People can also create a larger business model because through the net you can find a niche audience across the globe.

The humanization side is the desire to sit around a table with family and friends to share a meal, the need to be with other people even if that means going to the explosion of music festivals around the globe.  It is the human contact. 

I have written about this before.  We are shifting the way we live and although there is certainly a link to the economy but it circles back to the Internet revolution we are living through.  I know I personally feel the craze of the day to day.  I can barely keep up with the flow of information coming at me.  I am so looking forward to getting away mid-June for a few weeks with my family and then spending the rest of the summer working but working at a different level.  The world of the Internet takes a toll. 

So what will I be doing as I get off the constant communication world this summer, making jams, baking pies and cookies, arranging flowers…of course in between a skype call or two but I need to make my own time to enjoy the humanization of the Internet. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. John Best

    Technology allows us to “personally” interact, without the hassle of actually having to meet to do it. We no longer have to hop on a bus, worry about what we look like, the time it takes to get ready or to our destination etc. The instancy of possible communication can be dehumanising. I agree that taking time out of the torrent of technological information to speak to those we love and those around us is a good and valuable investment of our time.

  2. falicon

    Love it!Interestingly, I think this desire for connection is actually what drives so much mobile use…when I’m in line, or experiencing something new/interesting, my first reaction is to think ‘who can I share this with’ or ‘man I wish so and so was here to experience this with me’…so I pull out my mobile device and either ping them directly (or share in general)…but what I’m really doing in that action is looking for a touch of human connection and a way to let someone know I’m thinking about them…I think others take it a step further and pull out their digital devices even when there is already human contact to be had right next to them…and when they do this, I think overload and a desire/need to occasionally unplug for a bit grows.We are still in the start of this shift to ‘digital everything’…and so we are all still learning our limits, comfort levels, and the proper give-and-take…so sometimes taking a step back from all the ‘tech’ is the perfect way to get a real handle on all that.

  3. rachel

    I think it is something that has to constantly be on your mind as something you are concerned about. As a total junkie for all things communication I am always trying to monitor the use. As a mom with two young children I am concerned with the negative effects on kids of being too plugged in (we have no data points). When I was at the beach today with my son alone on a beautiful, quiet morning checking email I knew there was a problem. Here’s to unplugging a bit. Seriously.

    1. Gotham Gal

      here’s to unplugging. i plan on unplugging for the next two weeks. not completely but definitely taking it down a huge notch.

      1. William Mougayar

        I still like to know about some of the food place you’ll find. We’ll be trailing your vacation by a couple of days, starting June 21-30. I’m also looking forward to unwinding a bit & having family time, but will try to post some fun stuff on my Tumblr.

  4. David Smuts

    I guess the real question heree GG is: how does one get the balance righjt? If you can figure that one out please let me know!Have a great and relaxing summer with the fam bakinmg peach cobbler!

    1. Gotham Gal

      some days are more balanced than others. i really believe it is something that you have to work at all the time.

  5. Guest

    I think the issue of “humanizing” the web isn’t so much about the internet but rather more about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of how we interact on the internet.I have tried the concept of “branding ones self” by being professional, intelligent, serious, kind, and considerate…But, that isn’t me!So I just sort of “let it all hang out” when I write a blog post, share something on Tumblr or whatever. I try to be real.I am just a smart ass, a jokester, and I find humor in lots of things and rather than “brand” or market myself I just rather let myself be me…I probably get too personal, but if the web is ever going to be “humanized” then all of us need to be less a brand on the web and more a human….



    1. Gotham Gal


  7. Dory

    It’s interesting, or rather, baffling to me that the Executive Director of Huffington Post never thought about this concept before. I’d really like to hear more about that.

    1. Gotham Gal


  8. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    great post. having just come back from a camping trip – it was nice being unplugged from digital world and connecting with a few friends for a couple of days. I also try and meet 1 or 2 new people face-to-face every week. There is definitely a yearn for human connection that can only be satisfied with old fashioned type of meetings. Still, I recently switched my online activity to engage more with conversations and have been finding this process much more rewarding at all levels and goes a long way in building communities and relationships

  9. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Very timely post 🙂 It seems like nearly everyone in tech is shifting rapidly away from tech for tech’s sake to tech for humans’ sake. Even down to the individual user level, where everyone seems to be making more of an effort to actually engage online vs just broadcasting and receiving.When I talk about my business and tell people, “the humans are the algorithm,” I love the smiling, nodding response that I get. I think I would have gotten scoffs five years ago.BTW, really enjoyed and benefited from your Hatchery talk Friday! Thank you, again.

  10. Cam MacRae

    I read an interesting paper the other day which suggested that the reason productivity hasn’t increased in real terms while we’ve moved down the road to ubiquitous computing is that we’ve simply squandered all that computation capacity on extra bureaucracy. For example, the tax code increased from ~1500 pages in the 50’s to ~15000 pages today, absorbing all the additional productivity. This theory appears to hold in both the public and private spheres. (The thesis of the paper was actually that it’s a good thing most software projects fail or else society would collapse under the weight of its own rules and regulations).So, the reason we don’t all “work” 3 days a week in 2012 as predicted is that somewhere on along the line we’ve forgotten that the network (and its computers) exist simply to facilitate richer lives, and instead we’ve enslaved ourselves.Important post, and I hope you talk more about it — you’re on the leading edge of the push to reclaim our freedom.

    1. William Mougayar

      Well said Cam, especially the 2nd paragraph.

      1. Cam MacRae

        Thanks William. Currently listening to your Blogworld session — great stuff!

    2. Gotham Gal

      We have enslaved ourselves and I directly attribute the DIY movement to taking ourselves out of that slavery

      1. William Mougayar

        Isn’t DIY with technology what got us here. Look how much time we spend on self-service activities. It’s mind boggling.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Economists call it shadow work.

          1. William Mougayar

            Yup. Alvin Toffler was the first to notice how big it was going to get about 10 years ago.