July 5, 2015

Do you think real-time interactions are dying?

I recently read a post by Mark W. Schaefer which made me think a lot.
While I don’t agree with the fact that, as he mentions, “the social web is incapable of enabling significant social revolution”, I do believe a radical change is indeed happening.

The end of real-time interactions

I might be a tiny bit dramatic here, but I do believe we’re going towards the end of traditional communication.
The part that made me think the most was:

Recently a teen-aged girl I know met a new guy and started dating. He came over to her house, dropped off a CD she wanted to borrow and then left the house five minutes later to go home and have a Facebook conversation with her into the morning hours. They dated for a short time and when he broke up with her (over Facebook-induced jealousy) it was via cellphone. Not talking — texting. She said he preferred to argue this way because the delay in response while text-messaging afforded him the opportunity to think of a snide remark. When his Facebook relationship status changed to “single,” a whole new round of nasty claims and counter-claims were levied — to the world, on status updates.

Wow that is so true. I heard this story so many times. It could apply to many situations all around me, and I am sure it is the same for you.
So what’s happening?

A comfortable safe haven

Real-time interactions require clear answers, sharing of emotions, both visual ones or auditive ones (in case of phone interactions). It requires quick thinking, exposing one’s insecurities for your interlocutor(s) to see. And yes, courage of course.
How is a “new media” interaction comparing to all this?:

• feedback is delayed: doesn’t seem much, but the simple fact of getting a delayed answer from the other person is an advantage on its own to many people

• no 100% attention required: during a real life meeting or phone call, if others don’t have your undivided attention they are gonna notice, and it’s never a good thing. If you’re talking with someone on Twitter / Facebook / Text message, you will be able to multi-task at will (even if it’s not really a good thing after all)

• higher chance of smart remarks: you have all the time to think of a nice comeback even if the other person just owned you. In a real-time interaction you would probably curl up in a corner of the room and cry.

• it’s a lot easier to be authoritative: even if you are not comfortable with speaking or standing in crowds, it won’t matter. On non-real time media it’s naturally much easier to show that you know what you’re talking about, with no fear of emotions getting on the way.

I can see this on my own skin. I think about situations in which a problem would’ve been much more easily solved through phone. But a text message looked like a much more appealing solution. Slower efficiency but a good price to pay to avoid a phone conversation which may have proved an unnecessary annoyance.

Is it a bad thing?

Not necessarily. You see, there’s a lot of talk about social media being a bad habit. People believe social media is a big waste of time, but I honestly think the change it’s causing in the world’s population is so big and important that it *is* the natural evolution our species is going through. Probably the future man will interact more and more through indirect means rather than real-time ones, and everything will adapt around that, not necessarily causing a meltdown of earth’s core and consequent apocalypse as many believe.

My personal idea is, hold your seat…

New forms of communication allow us to communicate better

Yes that’s my theory. Why? Well simply put. Think about ALL communication going through text messages, Facebook wall messages, Twitter updates and so on. Now, how many of this would you share with others through phone? And to how many people anyway? See my point.
Social media (+ text messaging) allows us to communicate a lot more than we were used to, at the expense of converting even traditional messages to new media.
Does this mean our future generations will be spineless cowards? This I can’t be sure of, but even so, they will ALL end up being spineless cowards, hence the results will kinda be the same.

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  1. Mark W Schaefer says:

    Thanks for commenting on my article Gabriele and for extending the dialogue on this topic. Well done.


  2. Raul Colon says:


    I think you have opened my eyes to some behaviour I was already being a part of. In some occasions I would rather talk via email, twitter, or other indirect channels because I can get more accomplished.

    I might be using it as an excuse but I like to talk so much that if I meet with the person face to face I keep on going.

    Great article from a perspective of what is happening around us we on most occasions don’t pay attention to it. I think the Comfortable Safe Haven wording was perfect for your message. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    • Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      And thank you for commenting! I am a joke among my friends and colleagues because when a phone operator tries to suggest me new mobile phone plans, I am always the one asking for a good data plan without free voice minutes and text messages, and I always get a weird look. Even if multitasking isn’t good for our brain, I find it much easier to have an asynchronous conversation when trying to get things done.

  3. Hi Gabriele!

    Just stumble on your blog today! Good stuff here . You know in my country there is some people divorcing by sms( short message service) :). Maybe in years come human less interested to communicate face to face with other human beings.
    Rammesh Perumal recently posted..How Viral Is Video Marketing

    • Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      Oh yes I think I read something like that, in a way it’s kinda sad, if you think about it, but after some thought, who can honestly say he *never* preferred an asynchronous communication to a synchronous one?
      I am not one to say real-time conversations should be maintained at all costs, ’cause I really am the last person who can talk on that matter, but I guess sooner or later we’ll reach the point where “sms breaking up” will be considered fairly normal.
      Gabriele Maidecchi recently posted..Leadership development- building an awesome team