Faraway, So Close!

In my previous post, I said,

I need face-to-face interaction and conversation. I need spontaneous gatherings. I need occurrences of random escapades and shenanigans. I can get some of that online (the LSW Meebo room is great for that), but nothing really replaces in-person socialization.

Some people may see that as saying I think social software is inferior to face-to-face interaction, so let me expand on my statement: in-person socialization is also no substitute for synchronous and asynchronous interaction through the internet.

There are people in my life that I respect and admire, both personally and professionally. Many of them are spread out across the globe, and it is simply not feasible to have them all in the same geographical space at the same time as often as I need. Being able to interact with them through IM, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, web forums, email and other internet-y ways is so very important to me. My life would be much poorer without these means of interacting with these people in my life. The internet brings these people closer to me when it would otherwise be improbable or impossible.

Plus, there are ways of communicating online that you can’t do as well (or at all) in person. This is why we have prose, printed poetry and essays as well as live storytelling, performance poetry and lectures; there are ways of using text that you can’t do with other forms of communication. Heck, for some people, interacting with others at a distance is preferable to meeting in-person, and social software gives them more ways to do this.

Social software is not a fad or a flash in the pan. That’s absurd. Social software didn’t come about because a few programmers thought it would be cool. It came about because humans are social creatures and they will use any technology they can to interact with each other. That’s why humans have written so many letters and postcards, why we’ve made so many phonecalls, why we’ve invented telegraphy and radios and televisions. Social software is no substitute for in-person interaction, but it adds to the potential and the richness of our interaction in ways that other technologies don’t.

That’s why it’s important for libraries to incorporate “Web 2.0” and other new technologies into their services. Not because it’s “cool,” not because it makes us look “hip” and “modern,” but because people are already using these technologies to connect and communicate with each other. Implementing these technologies offers people more ways to use our services, not less. Isn’t that what we want to offer?

No one method of communication is good for everyone, which is why variety is so goshdarned great. More technology, more social software, more in-person interaction! Bring it all on, says I!

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4 thoughts on “Faraway, So Close!

  1. Love it. Good stuff Neff. I will pass this around at work and tell them what the big city librarian says about the 2.0 :>

    And like some rock bands:
    I am much better live than I am the studio.

  2. Didn’t mean to doubt your dedication to 2.0. I am not saying it doesn’t bring people together where they otherwise wouldn’t be, but in the perspective of a public library, one must be careful not to lose the human touch.

  3. I completely agree, Jeff. My point is that Web 2.0 is the human touch, no less so than face-to-face contact.

  4. Josh,
    You hit a couple of nails on the head and made your points well. We need both our online and inperson interactions. And let’s not forget using the phone for making actual calls.
    I just renewed my library card and was awed by the abilities and capabilities enhanced by both Web 1.0 and 2.0.
    But it was the Face to Face interactions with the resourceful and helpful librarians that made my visit memorable. And it added material to my new book, Face to Face!

    Susan RoAne, Author, How To Work a Room

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