How often have you heard people complain that we’re getting too absorbed in technology, and as result becoming disconnected from ‘real life’ relationships?
‘She’s always texting furiously, but I rarely see her actually hang out with anyone.’
‘He’s so addicted to his phone– it’s like he’s never present with the people around him.’
‘The only time I hear from Jake is when he posts on my Wall for my birthday. Is that even a real friendship?’
We all know someone who aligns with a variation of at least one of the above statements. Maybe you’re even guilty of one or two yourself.
While it sounds extreme, there are modern technology users who have become so enamoured with digital communication that they’ve cut themselves off from real-life socializing. That being said, sweeping statements that say technology is making every mobile device user withdraw from real life social situations simply isn’t accurate.
Just look at what happened at SXSW Interactive, which in 2011 drew in over 19,000 like-minded people who came with the intention of connecting in real life.
Real-life connections. They’re so hot right now.
What’s even more interesting is that the hottest trends at SXSW this year, according to Mashable and The Next Web, is mobile technology designed to help users connect with relevant people nearby.
A few hot location-based, or “social discovery” apps:
- Highlight: Connects with Facebook and lets you discover details — like name, mutual friends and photos — about the people physically near to you
- Glancee: Helps you meet people you’re not yet in contact with, and notifies users of others with “common friends or mutual interests”
- Sonar: Connects with FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to let you know how you’re connected with the people around you
- Banjo: Alerts users when their friends are nearby; it also allows them to search other users’ updates and photos for common interests
- Arrived: Lets you inform targeted friends when you arrive somewhere (because you don’t want every Joe in your network to see when you’re shopping at Victoria’s Secret)
So it’s like the ultimate new dating technology, right?
Er, Not exactly. Perhaps men may see it this way, but if the SXSW speed dating event on Saturday is an indicator of the willingness of tech-savvy women to meet like-minded men – in a safe, moderated environment, no less – then the desire to connect with strangers for the purposes of flirting may be unbalanced between genders.
‘At yesterday’s cofounder speed-dating, roughly 10 of the 60 participants were women,’ Forbes said, but added, ‘This is one of the only spots on earth where you see lines for the men’s room.’
Perhaps there are more men than women at SXSW, but the ratio of men to women at the conference isn’t 1:6. More than likely, women are intimidated by the idea of putting themselves on the map and broadcasting their availability.
‘When we talked to women we discovered, predictably, that the notion of having their exact location plotted on a map for the scrutiny of strangers was a no-go,” says Ian Bell, founder of dating app Tingle. “Still, that’s how the vast majority of mobile dating apps work today.’
But let’s save the topic of dating for another day. For many people, meeting others is about expanding friendship circles as well as building business networks.
Meeting specific people has never been easier
Flirtatious intentions aside, the rising popularity of mobile apps designed to foster real-life connections shows that people are looking to go back to the “old ways” of face-to-face socializing. Increasingly we hear stories about people who are connecting with one another online – via a mutual friend on Facebook, an intro on LinkedIn, or a bold DM between two strangers – to set up a coffee meeting.
Yes, we are absolutely doing more socializing online, but as a result – should we choose to take those conversations offline – we are much richer socially than when we were limited to connections made through real-life encounters alone.
It’s all about how you use the tools.
Gents, it’s not a bad idea to be cautious when you approach women; you don’t want to give them a reason to fall off the radar. And ladies, see if you can be a little more open-minded, especially when it comes to meeting new men (platonically or otherwise). Perhaps if you’re the first to reach out, connecting won’t feel as creepy.
What’s your view about translating virtual connections into real life ones? Have your say @Nokia_Connects.
Bianca is Editor-in-Chief of SocialBusiness.org and a contributor for VisualNews.com. She has been writing about innovation in the digital space since 2007 when she began as the lead editor of an international trend spotting publication.