Convince and Convert has a post titled “Is Wi-Fi Making You Anti-Social?” It poses the question “Will wireless Internet use facilitate greater engagement with co-located others or encourage a form of “public privatism?”
Unfortunately, right now we seem to be veering toward “public privatism”. Constant access to our social networks and the people that we already know is turning us off from chance meetings and pleasant interactions with strangers. Generally, they focus on interactions at coffee shops, and the fact that everyone is so busy chatting on Facebook that they don’t take the time to meet the people sitting across the table from them.
As someone who often takes my laptop to Starbucks, I know that I’m guilty of this. Usually, I politely smile at the people near me as I sit down. We all put in our head phones and stare into our laptops and then do the polite nod as we get up to leave. Although I admit that I’m part of the problem, I do miss the community of the local coffee shop at college. It was a place that encouraged conversations; I met so many wonderful people there. (Seriously, if you’re in Athens, go to Donkey.)
But, back to wi-fi making us less social. I think the problem’s actually bigger than this. When I walk around my neighborhood (I’m trying to learn my way around – it’s embarrassing to get lost ½ mile from where you live.) I keep my headphones in, and most of my neighbors do the same. We do the polite nod when we pass. (Apparently I do a lot of polite nodding.) The only people who break this lack of real communication are small children, who love to yell “Hi” and then “I saw you there” (with an emphatic point) when you pass them again. And, I have to say, it’s nice to be interrupted. So, if you see me in a coffee shop, even if I have my headphones on, feel free to say hi.