Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2001

Double clicking your way to a social life

June 21, 2001

Imagine this: you want to meet one of your friends at a cafor some coffee and chatting. Once you get there, you sip on the coffee and talk to your friend from the other side of the restaurant on an electronic messenger that gives no sign of tone or body language.

This is the new era of cybersocializing, which eliminates many traditional elements of meeting old and new friends at coffeehouses or taverns.

Recently, I spent a Friday evening in one of the area's friendliest cities, Lawrence. I walked into a cybercafe between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets. After I paid the extra dollar to use a computer, I glanced around the establishment and noticed at least a dozen empty tables. However, every soul in the place was accompanied by a computer. So many people using computers in a cafith empty tables had me thinking a little about the situation. At first, I thought I could not be alone in thinking the concept was insane until I approached another customer.

I talked to a young lady, who was immersed in her activities on the computer.

"Is it just me, or does this seem a little strange that we are in a cafnd everyone is on a computer rather than socializing?" I asked her. She gave me and the other customers a long stare and replied "Well, dude, you can talk to people in here on the (AOL) Instant Messenger."

I know I am supposed to be part of Generation X but are we really that lazy and impersonal? Do people need to chat with friends on computers while they are in the same dining establishment?

The Internet has done many incredible things for our culture over the past few years. Technology is a major factor all across the United States. I am not completely opposed to computers in cybercafes for the purposes of checking e-mail, but if you are spending your Friday evening in a cybercafe for hours on end, that may be evidence that you are a reclusive person.

Socializing is something the Internet did not have to change. Diane O'Byrne, Kansas University sales strategy professor, told my class that communication is broken down into three forms. Words alone make up 7 percent of communication, while tone makes up 47 percent of the pie. The remainder of communication comes from body language. So, if you want to talk to friends or meet new people online, you will only really get across one- tenth of your message, according to this theory. Things can come across the wrong way when you talk to someone online, and it can often get boring when you are constantly staring into a computer.

My advice for Generation X'ers, and anyone else who has been swept away by cybercafes, is not to completely avoid the scene. Instead, check your e-mail, talk to other patrons and maybe even invite them to sit down at those tables with the invisible people sitting at them.

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