Pete, a regular AdAge columnist and VP at Nielsen Online Digital Strategy, lost his sister recently. He became aware of the contrast between real, deep offline connections and community created by her passing and shared grief and support vs the surface kinds of connections we are all running after in our online world. Here's a link to his column: http://bit.ly/Blackshaw-adage
I found myself buying every admonishment and silently vowing to work those offline relationships harder than my Twitter-based ones, but found the comments posted very interesting for the push back from a few readers. This is actually why online conversations can be so important and compelling. We actually have more opportunity than ever before to share and hear other opinions. This hopefully will make the world a little smaller, but it also reminds me of the need to remember the middle ground.
Here's what I wrote in response to Pete's column and others' comments:
"Pete, I too am sorry for your loss, and sadly grateful for the column it inspired.
Yes, there are those who feel the connection you made between your experience of a family member's death, offline, with the lifestyle we live now, online, was "kind of too much" or "nearly blasphemous."
And others will share the pathos completely and hang their heads in shame for a moment vs just hanging their heads down over a smartphone, thanks to the reminder that we need to emerge from our avatar-selves and raise our eyes and our consciousness more frequently, and seize the offline day too.
That said, the ship has sailed and I fear we won't easily be able to find our way back to the kind of connections we SHOULD have. I'm guilty of missing the chance to share a smile or receiving one, and have heard annoyed passersby say, "Look up!" And I've been annoyed in return to see every single person on the train completely absorbed in their own digital world.
Tim Sanders wrote his book, Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends back in 2002 on the premise that "being a lovecat" is the only way to succeed in the 21st century, and necessary to overcome our Dilbert society of isolation in cubbies.
We crave community. I think we're creating it in any way we can.
Digitally, time suck that it is, is just easier for many. Unfortunately, we end up back in the digital version of a cubbie after all.
Thank you for the excellent reminder to look up."