the need for more human contact

As technology has taken over our social lives I continue to have conversations about how that has made an impact on our lives and what that means.

Let's start with the short term and what is happening now.  Teenagers and tweens are all over instagram.  Some of these kids have thousands of followers.  That following rises their status among their peers.  Social media has created a new dynamic but essentially it is the same dynamic as it always has been for the "it" kids vs the "outsider" kid but social media is the platform.  Kids go to their favorite ecommerce sites everyday to see the latest and greatest and read the relevant content.  Then they share that with their friends.  They actually do not need to go to the mall anymore because the mall has come to them. 

You walk into restaurants and see a group of people at a table having a meal and there are a few checking their phone.  I have been at board meetings where I peek over my shoulder to see someone checking their CNN feed ( btw this was not a start-up board but a non-profit board ).  The ability to keep connected 24/7 is amazing but also daunting. 

What are the long tail effects of being connected to all aspects of our work and social life all the time?  Someone said to me that he thought that 3rd life spaces were going to be important.  3rd life would be something as simple as a bowling alley.  I just recently invested in Royal Palms, a 18,000 indoor shuffle board arena in Gowanus because I totally agree.  There is a reason for the success of smaller more intimate restaurants that only have 35/45 seats.  Will we see interesting coffee shops where there are art installations that are geared towards neighborhood hang outs through out the day with music or poetry readings at night.  Adult teen centers?

The desire for intimacy and human contact is something I hear from people who are in their 20's.  It is why companies like Gertrude are gaining traction because they are providing an opportunity for people to connect with others over something ( in this case art ) in a brick and mortar location.  Kitchensurfing has built a marketplace for people to bring chefs into their homes so that people can connect over the kitchen table.  Smorgasbourg and art shows are packed as people want to physically connect with others over food and art.  They are physically social.  Catchafire gives people the ability to give back and make a difference with their professional skills.  All of these are related. 

I do believe that there will be more of a reaction as we move forward in the next few years because we are human.  Humans want and desire human contact and that isn't contact through a phone or a computer but through touch and face to face conversation.  There is a reason for the urbanization that is going on across the globe. What will be built because of that are probably more places that physically bring communities together.  What they will look like and how they will be used is yet to be seen. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. CCjudy

    definitely this is the status in SF – so also in NYC?

    1. Gotham Gal

      i think everywhere

  2. pointsnfigures

    it’s why I invested in…..and I love Kitchensurfing. Too bad I don’t have my old apartment to host in….

  3. William Mougayar

    Indeed, social was social before social media. This is like a return to old habits.Have you read this book from 1999.The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community…

  4. russ.thornton

    It seems this trend is fostering a new type of technology . . . “nostalgia tech”…

    1. Gotham Gal

      interesting article.

  5. candice

    See also… teenagers don’t go to the mall anymore because they aren’t allowed out of the house. From here, Danah Boyd’s research: http://www.technologyreview

    1. Gotham Gal

      very interesting. danah boyd is an expert in this field.

  6. Stuart Willson

    i think you’re going to see a lot of businesses leverage online social to create and enhance offline social, along the lines of what meetup is doing.

  7. Leslie

    I can get myself so depressed by the current preoccupation with tech all the time. As I live alone and freelance I look forward to the social (in person contact) often to find the tech ice isn’t broken until days into a gig. Your piece cheered me up, I’m heartened to be reminded others feel the same, people are creating solutions. I for one missed out on the era of the sock hop-I hope that kind of community gathering comes back, you really can’t watch one of those old videos and not smile. Thanks for the cheer! L

  8. LE

    Some tangential comments…What I find interesting and different from when I was growing up was how young people treat people of the opposite sex.When I was growing up, with very little exception, you typically had guy friends and then a girlfriend. You didn’t have girls that were “friends”. My sister (a few years younger) had a group of friends that included guys (and also a boyfriend) but the guys in the group were either metro (that word didn’t exist back then of course) or gay. (And looking back at the pictures it’s actually pretty funny the way they all looked at the time).Now kids (including my daughters) easily have a mix of girl and guy friends. Like thousands. My daughters were bat mitzvah maybe +-8 to 10 years ago and they probably had 125 kids in attendance. I could barely get together 12. And I had to get my sisters friends on the list.I can’t imagine having a girl that was a friend and a separate girlfriend. The girlfriend would be totally jealous (as I would in the opposite direction). Of course I don’t remember any girls that liked either computers or business.I’m thinking the way things are now it must be difficult for younger people to know when someone is actually interested in them “for real” or just as a friend. Reading the NY Times engagements (which I try to do) sometimes I am amazed at the stories about how people are friends for years and never go further than that and then find out they want to be in an intimate relationship. Back from when I grew up it was really easy to tell if someone liked you since there wasn’t an “in between” state.Curious if anyone else had the same experience (my thoughts relate to the late 70’s).That said despite the complaints that people seem to have about online dating and meeting people (to have relationships) my personal experience has been great in this area. I’m married to someone I met on jdate. To me it’s the greatest tool ever invented if it is used correctly and you put in the effort.

    1. Gotham Gal

      All good comments.I always had more men friends than women but that has changes over the years.I do think that there are times when people dont read that easily

  9. JLM

    .In many ways this is not a new problem but the latest version of a long standing problem.How do folks make and maintain friendships? Personal relationships?The advent of technology has made it possible for folks to have many “contacts” but has not had the same impact on deep and meaningful friendships.And yet the opportunity is richer than ever before. It takes a bit of effort.What tech can do is enable one to stay in touch with their friends and to feed that fire.In the end one has to stick their neck out, expend some energy and invest some time to become the friend you are looking for.I love going to parties but I hate the superficial nature of “How are the kids doing?” conversations. I want to know what people think about things.JLM.

    1. Gotham Gal

      you are so right. i feel the exact same way. that is why i loved it when i went to an event and someone asked me what was the best decision i made today. it made for a real conversation.

      1. LE

        The things that JLM and you are discussing are the type of things that really matter when someone is in a relationship that leads to (hopefully) marriage.I always get a laugh at people who talk about how they like the same music, or a sport (say skiing) and think that is what it’s all about. Or “we both like to travel and go to nice restaurants”. [1]I’ll never forget my ex wife’s uncle who said to me one day (was after we were just married iirc) “You know what your problem is? You think to much”. He wasn’t stupid as much as he was just simple and liked to lay in the hot tub and talk about where he ate and where he traveled. And definitely not think to much beyond that. [2]I noticed one thing that “social” people have in common as a pattern. (From two women that I dated for a long time both I was engaged (and broke up with) and one I married and divorced). They don’t care about the conversation they care about what is coming out of their mouth. They get pleasure from just saying anything at all.The way they are always at the center of a conversation is by latching onto something that someone else says and running with it. The content does not matter. They are definitely not listening other than that.So if you are talking about your trip to Paris they will barge in and start to talk about a trip they took or what they did in Paris. If the subject shifts to something else they will blurt out something tangential and run with that. (I do this with my commenting but I’m not interrupting what anyone else is saying.)Lastly, I am always amazed at the people that I meet who never ever ask me any questions even after I have spent 20 minutes asking them about what they do. I met a guy the other day who ran a business making expensive granite monuments. Talked to him 1/2 hour at least. He wouldn’t shut up (which was fine I learned how he makes money). But not once did he say “so what do you do?”.[1] While it’s probably good to be married to someone who knows what you do and has as similar career just as important is being married to someone who will listen to you and whether you care about what they do. My wife isn’t in business (and doesn’t know much about it) but listens to what I have to say and we discuss. She is in medicine and I ask her questions and we discuss. That was apparent from the first date.[2] You know what he did for a living? He bought used mattresses and sold them in poor neighborhoods. That’s right. He would buy used mattresses right from the drivers and trucks that removed them when they were delivering a new mattress. And he would rank them by how bad they were and price accordingly. And there was a market for that. File under stuff that most people don’t even know that goes on.

    2. LE

      “How are the kids doing?”Not to mention that it’s near impossible if someone doesn’t have the full back story on everything to even answer those types of questions. Once you know someone you have shortcuts that you can employ that shorten stories. “So today Kid Mercury said…”I’m guessing that people are superficial for many reasons but at least two that I’ve identified seem to cover most cases:a) When you meet someone for the first time you don’t know them well enough to really know the boundaries of what you can and can’t say. So you have to constantly worry that you will offend them in some way. Or, since they don’t know you they will say something that you will take the wrong way. Etc. [1] Personally I probably push the boundaries on this since I am not running a popularity contest. And I’m willing to take the heat. In general of course.b) People are superficial. (like you are saying).The question is did “a” lead to “b” because people realized it was just to dangerous to do anything that might cause problems? (Diplomatica).[1] The mother of a girl I dated in college reacted to something I said once (a story about how I saved money on something) with “bargains bargains bargains”. I thought she was putting me down. When I mentioned to my gf later she said “oh no she is all about saving money”. When I knew her a bit better I found out that was true. But on first meeting her I interpreted her reaction biased in the other direction.

  10. Susan Rubinsky

    I use social media every single day to make connection that lead to human contact. I make sure I reach out to people and invite them to d things as simple as meeting for fifteen minutes for coffee. Life is for living, not mediating.

  11. Jane

    My kids are just at the beginning of this – and I want to teach them the right ‘habits’ – that interacting over your phone should never win out over interacting face-to-face. That you don’t have to be available immediately 24/7, people can wait for a response most of the time. So now I decided to make a movie about it, just 20-30 minutes, showing kids the hilarity of texting at a party when surrounded by friends, or cutting someone off mid-sentence, or stepping into a busy street while answering a text. One kid I interviewed called his phone a brown crystal – it sucks him in, and he can’t extricate himself. I think your investment, gothamgal, is wise – and we’ll need some markers and guidelines to show us the way of this new world!

    1. Gotham Gal

      looking forward to seeing that clip.