TED Conversations

larissa green

junior copywriter, TED

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In an individualistic world where autonomy is a requirement for human-involvement, should conversation be mandatory?

As a 23-year old female, working at TED with amazing people and amongst the greatest of minds, I find that when one introduces themselves to another, our personal walls dissolve rapidly. From watching speakers cheer each other on during auditions, and watching the personal connections develop in such short time, it's almost as beautiful as watching their brain's dendrites connect all sorts of seemingly impossible things during presentations.

However, walking around my neighborhood of South Williamsburg, my soul burns when the eyes of my peers pierce it with their unrivaled fervor of judgement and apathy [that I secretly hope is false.]

Within all of us, young and old, is the drive and will to connect--so why do we give blank stares to the glow of our phone, instead of smiling back at the faces across from us? Why do we put so much weight on assimilating to the standards of others in order to feel accepted?

I want to ask the TED community to start a conversation where we can all be honest about how we generally feel speaking to others in public. Because, as a former journalism student turned creative-writing graduate, I wonder if we would all be happier knowing that everyone we pass by is a potential friend, lover, or soulmate.

We tell our most painful secrets to strangers in stream-of-consciousness outbursts, but refuse to communicate wholly with the ones closest to us. Why?

Why do you choose anonymity or intimacy?


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    Jun 14 2012: On one front, I think Nietzsche nails why with the famous quote "Every deep thinker is more afraid of being understood than of being misunderstood". Fear of judgement is something that amplifies greatly the closer our relationship is with each other.

    On another front, it also seems to be a preferred outreach mechanism in our psyche. Our "real life" social networks tend to be much, much smaller than our potential online networks. The obvious limiting factor is geography - unless you have the means to travel, your localized social network is immediately limited by proximity and chance.

    From this I might develop 15 close personal friends, but only 1-2 of them will share in, say, a love for philosophy or even the same musical tastes. In some cases, I may literally find zero people in proximity that share in those areas of interest.

    From that, I think we subconsciously classify the people we know relative to our interests, and assign internal hierarchies to them. Then, when a social thought comes to mind, we internally decide if that information will be understood, or well received by any of the people in our immediate circles. If the answer is no...we look to other alternatives... a blog, a forum, twitter.. facebook... where the potential for finding people who will care and do care is much greater.

    If you remove technology from the equation for a moment - look at how pervasive things like keeping a personal journal or diary have been throughout time, you see a similar pattern. Not just for historical recording purposes - in many cases these were being used as an outlet for deeply personal or controversial thoughts ideas that they believed wouldn't be well received by their peers. In a sense, the diary represented a disconnected desire for the same basic need to be heard.

    Technology then seems to provide two services that are appealing - anonymity (even if people ridicule, it's not like you actually know them) and reach (hundreds share in my passion vs 1-2)

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