The Answer to Why

I had dinner and beers last night with a couple of friends at my favorite Irish pub on the Peninsula. The game was on the TV above the bar.

We talked Giants baseball, girls- the usual stuff. We tweeted snark with a friend who was at AT&T Park.

We had some laughs and a sipper of Sambuca, the fantastic Italian elixir.

We decided that Tuesdays were a good night to repeat this experience. We entered the future dates on our mobiles.

Last night was just fine.

This morning, I settled into a leather chair at a Starbucks down the hill from my house. To properly conduct this investigation, the iPad was left at home. I sipped a surprisingly good cup of  one of their high-end brews and watched the people inside.

This particular Starbucks is next door to YouTube, so I’d guess there were a number of employees in there.

The noise level was very low. The rumble of conversation seemed to all be coming from the front of the store- where the baristas and the cashiers are.

I looked at the faces of the 30 people, not lingering long enough so they’d notice; I scanned the room, taking mental laps, taking mental notes.

You already know what I noticed.

Virtually no one was talking to another human. 50% of the inhabitants had headphones/ear buds in.

Everyone is staring at mobiles and tablets and laptops, connected and engaged with words, pictures or people assembled in packets in front of them, but no one is interacting with the human 4 inches away from them.

To a time traveler from another era ( let’s say the 50’s), they would be astonished at how quiet this very public space was this morning.

This is hardly a new thing, but it’s new enough that waves of articles from thought leaders, cranky anti-tech curmudgeons  and  academics have surfaced the past couple of years all asking the same question: why are we so alone?

Social media marketing is not an easy job. Brands need to somehow, someway satisfy our most basic human needs- connection, community and value. We as consumers want our brands to value us as humans, in an era when we as a society are more alienated and isolated than any time I have ever witnessed.

I want to know the answer. I need to know the “why”, in a world of “what” and “how”.

I cannot wait to get to class tonight and ask my students why.

I want to hear what these people, humans who have never known a world without instant-on connectivity, have to say about what happened at Starbucks this morning.

If we’re teaching properly, we should learn things from our students when we facilitate their learning. My hunger for knowledge gathering is sated in my classroom. There will be an outline, topics for discussion and slides for the lecture, but the best outcome  is leaving the building tonight a little more aware of the humans I talk to, laugh with and crack wise with.

My career reinvention created an environment where I get to ask, “Why?”

That is very satisfying, indeed.

JS

P.S. Cherish your analog connections. Don’t let them slip away. You need them to feel alive.

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