Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pervasive Connectivity? Or Pervasive Separation?

I'm writing this while playing The Sims Social on Facebook, because I remembered a very interesting and, I believe, very relevant topic covered during the 5th IMMAP Summit. Barney Loehnis, Chairman, MMA, APAC, and Digital Lead of Ogilvy gave the conference's second keynote address: The Dilemma of Pervasive Connectivity. He described this situation as "exhausting." We are always on--through our phones, laptops, and other gadgets. And yet, we still find ourselves wanting and restless. I've heard many friends complain about how they feel so alone; I myself get this feeling at times when I think I shouldn't be feeling that way (like when I'm chatting my heart out, hanging out with friends or when I'm in a family reunion). All this loneliness for reasons we can't quite pinpoint. Or can we?

I was thinking, the dilemma may not be so much about the ubiquitous technologies that supposedly keep us connected (sometimes to the point of violating our sense of personal space) but how this situation makes our separation more glaring than ever. Not to discount the value of social networks in helping us keep in touch with our friends, just that there are times when I wonder how these platforms have affected the way we communicate with each other. The Sims Social, a perfect example of how I am connected, yet alone. A number of my virtual neighbors are acquaintances and former classmates I haven't talked to for years. Now we're interacting again, or at least our sims are. But will this improve our rapport in the real world? I honestly don't know, what I do know is we probably still won't be seeing much of each other any time soon (so I can start a cat fight if I want and not worry about getting in trouble hehe). Furthermore, these days, I noticed how many people would rather chat than make actual calls, thereby limiting vocal cues, not to mention nonverbal ones. The same is true with texting. It's so much easier to chat and text because we can take our sweet time responding and crafting what we want to say. Or, we can just not respond at all, and maybe just make an excuse about never receiving the other's message.

And then the opportunity for face-to-face interaction arrives. It has happened often enough that I find myself unable to say much, maybe I'll just fidget, or mumble an awkward word or two. The other person is often just as awkward. We end up wanting to end the interaction as soon as possible. The "hey I gotta go" becomes the best part of that brief contact. Makes me wonder if the person I had been having such lively chats with is actually the same person in front of me. Do we develop some sort of cyber-schizophrenia, that our online personalities develop separately from our real-world selves? Is the "unconnected" self unable to catch up with the social growth of the online self?

I've read an article from Psychology Today that persons who create good-looking avatars tend to carry over their "online confidence" in the real world. Given that, then there shouldn't be much disparity in online-offline personalities. However, this study was done around three years back. The game might have changed, who knows. I think I will be reading up on this a bit more in the next few days. It's something I feel is worth looking into (maybe I can even do a study on it for when I take my masters next year).

Oh wow is that me and Joselle and Des? I bet they'll kill me when they see this :p
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