TED Conversations

Jim Moonan

Owner/Artistic Director, NorthWind Education

TEDCRED 50+

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Are we over-socialized or under-socialized? Is it possible that we could be both?

Has social media and technology such as email, twitter, digital photography and smart phones Created a false sense of social connection?

I think socialization has in many respects been supplanted by "virtual" socialization.

What are the pros and cons of virtual socialization? Who benefits from it and what are its limitations?

What are the differences between virtual socialization and the traditional form of socialization (two or more people interacting on a personal basis)?

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    Aug 21 2011: i never understood what makes the "virtual" world virtual. i see why games such as second life virtual, as it has stuff (places, buildings) that are not real. but how email is virtual? why would facebook be virtual? these are just platforms for real people to engage in real interaction. a phone talk is also virtual? old fashioned paper mail is virtual?
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      Aug 21 2011: Yes, it's all virtual. To me.

      Maybe I have a more narrow definition of social interaction. Letter writing is not a "social" activity. It's a form of communication. I don't consider the letter I write to someone to be a social thing - it's a way to communicate thoughts. Same with email. Facebook is a whole different animal. To me, it's a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of voyeurism and a lot of insincerity. I'm generalizing, but still, when people have hundreds and hundreds of friends, many of whom they wouldn't recognize if they bumped into them on the street, that to me is not a social activity. It's a lot of narcissism.

      Really, I'm trying to develop my opinion on this issue - I could change - it's hopefully going to happen within this conversation to an extent.... So is what you and I are doing at this moment (although this moment is min, then another moment is yours) socializing? I think not. We are exchanging ideas. Debating. To me, that's not socialization.
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        Aug 21 2011: depends on your definition of socializing. for me socializing is sharing thoughts with other people, so we don't diverge into our own universes. the internet is a perfect place for that.

        another definition would be a human version of allogrooming. but for long time, humans don't do that physically, but by telling stories, singing and that stuff. this also can be done over the internet.

        yet another definition of socializing would be drinking together. it is a compelling definition, and indeed, it can not be done over a computer network.

        btw what you do is, i think, cherry picking. if i look at any group of people around a table, drinking and talking and laughing, i also see narcissism, insincerity, faked friendship, voyeurism and the like. and if you ask a bigot man what it is like to go to a pub with friends, he might condemn it based on such things.

        so in short, you sound like a tired old man, jim :P
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          Aug 22 2011: Yes, it's a matter of definition.

          You are ok with calling many things socialization, but I think socialization is something that can only occur in real time. Everything else is a version of socialization, but not a substitute for it.

          Not quite sure what you are getting at with the "cherry picking" comment or the bigot comment. Neither one of them sound very friendly.... I think a more accurate description of my comments is that I am generalizing, which I am.
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        Aug 22 2011: no, it is called cherry picking. it is when you filter the input to match your opinion.

        lately, the internet is filled with so called "rage comics". first i hated it. but then i realized that youngsters can better express emotions and social situations. most of the time these comics are not even interesting. creators just broadcast the situation they're in. this is socialization to the max. in fact, it might be even better, as kids often find it hard to express themselves with words. rage comics is easier.
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          Aug 22 2011: Ok, I'm cherry picking. You're cherry picking. This conversation may very well be all about cherry picking which of the cyber- social applications we think are genuinely social vs. Virtually social.

          The fact is, the definition of socialization may very well be diluted as a result of the barrage of social media. It's up for debate.

          Here is the crown jewel of my beef with social media: anyone with a Facebook account with hundreds - maybe thousands - of friends, the overwhelming majority of which they would not recognize or know if they bumped into them on the street. Is that socialization? Yes, but a diluted form of it.

          "Extreme" Information sharing is what we are really doing in most cases on places like FB, Twitter, etc.
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        Aug 22 2011: what makes you think that having 1000 "friends" is anyhow important? if you look at usage patterns, you will see that the interaction is focused to a few "friends" only. and even if not, why would two very deep relationships any better than fifty lighter?

        i once read an interview with the dalai lama. he said that he has no opportunity to have friends, partly because his religion forbids attachments, partly because he travels all the time. so he finds small packages of human relations everywhere. for example talking with a cleaner lady in a hotel. sharing some thoughts, dreams, complaints, etc, then never meet the person again. this is the social interaction he gets. hundreds of "bite size" friendships. is that wrong?
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          Aug 22 2011: "what makes you think that having 1000 "friends" is anyhow important?"

          I don't find it important in the least!!!

          "why would two very deep relationships any better than fifty lighter?"

          I think there is a vast difference between the two. I also think the value of the deep relationships far outweighs the value of the "light" friendships.

          "i once read an interview with the dalai lama. he said that he has no opportunity to have friends, partly because his religion forbids attachments, partly because he travels all the time."

          I would suspect it has everything to do with thefirst reason.

          "he [Dalai Lama] finds small packages of human relations everywhere. for example talking with a cleaner lady in a hotel. sharing some thoughts, dreams, complaints, etc, then never meet the person again. this is the social interaction he gets. hundreds of "bite size" friendships. is that wrong? "

          No, it's wonderful, real socialization!!!!! The Dalai Lama is one of the great examples of human decency in our time.

          I share Birdia's point of view above more than I do yours. I understand where you're coming from and agree on certain points, but I think you are diluting socialization by viewing all forms of cyber/virtual social media as haveing the same social "weight".
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          Aug 22 2011: Are you kidding?!?!? I speak differently every time I open up my mouth. I'm an actor - how do you want me to sound????.

          Just kidding!! Just kidding!!! Seriously, that would be too small a sample to get a good sense of we are.........
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          Aug 25 2011: Shakespeare?!?! Chaplin! Maybe even a touch of Woody Allen (the "stage" Woody Allen)

          You're point is well-taken. The voice is our unique instrument.
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          Aug 26 2011: Two of the great directors/writers since the art form of cinema began are Fellini and Bergman. Keaton was an amazing actor. Every bit as talentedc as Chaplin.

          Who's a better boxer? Keaton or Chaplin? Let us compare:

          http://youtu.be/zskO9O3hF78

          http://youtu.be/9qzradFgPxU
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        Aug 22 2011: jim, i'm starting to figure out that for you, a prerequisite for socializing is the existence of the usual channels of subconscious communication. every kind of face-to-face relation is social, and other kinds are not social. that is a valid definition, but i'd like to challenge its usefulness from two angles:

        1. what is more important in communication? and i mean personal valuation, and not sheer magnitude. what do you consider a more "noble" type of information exchange? conscious exchange of values, views, arguments and principles? or the unconscious and instinctional flow of data between the two limbic systems? which one is more "true" or "real"?

        2. though majority of this "secondary" channels does not work through written communication, some of them do. so basically you condemn written forms of communication because they convey *less* subconscious information. but what is enough? and why?
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          Aug 22 2011: "a prerequisite for socializing is the existence of the usual channels of subconscious communication. every kind of face-to-face relation is social, and other kinds are not social. that is a valid definition"

          Not really! Just because you are face-to-face with someone doesnt mean you are socializaing. Business meetings around a table, for example.

          True socialization to me is not based solely on whether or not there has been an "information exchange".

          Please don't misunderstand me - I think there are many forms of socialization and technology has added to that. It's just that I find the current social networks that I'm familiar with to be "light" socialization (your term). My problem with it is that most people I know who engage in this kind of socialization think of it as being much more, it seems. Again, I'm generalizing. I love the fact that I can stay in touch with my extended family via face book. Skype is a great thing, too.

          "so basically you condemn written forms of communication because they convey *less* subconscious information. but what is enough? and why?"

          First, I certainly don't condemn written forms of communication as not being socialization!!!! Did I say that?! If I did I want to take that back! Written communication is a very powerful form of communication (It's in my top 3 forms of communication - music, cinema and poetry). But when it comes to socializing, I don't think the written word is very powerful.

          I want this conversation to help me and others understand better what we value in socialization and how well our social media help us to truly socialize. I don't think there is any one right answer. I enjoy hearing everyone's take on it. I wonder how much the fact that I am not a big socializer and don't like small tak has to do with my views about what is and is not socialization.
          I am also hoping that this conversation can lead to a discussion about the sense of isolation and if it is ironically growing the more we "connect".
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          Aug 22 2011: Birdia, the Glenn Gould performance is remarkable - trance-like. It's beautiful. It is artistic communication at it's very best. But is it socialization???

          This is what I keep struggling with: I don't think what I watched and heard Glenn Gould communicating has much to do with socialization except for the fact that there was an audience there who might have had dinner together before or after the show and perhaps got "very social" after the performance ended somewhere more comfortable and conducive to "socializing". I don't know....

          Is there such a thing as a time and a place for socializing?
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          Aug 22 2011: Birdia, In my mind what musicians are doing together is creating - not socializing. I guess I just see socializing as a much more specific thing than most people.

          Krizstian, I hope I'm not giving you the impression that I think any less of someone who disagrees with my point of view. In this case (this discussion) I am really trying to learn better what the beneifts and drawbacks are to cyber-socialization. I am expressing my current view in hopes of getting some differing perspectives, which you have given me.
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          Aug 23 2011: As a musician I want to let you know, Jim, that it is impossible to create music alongside someone else without learning to gauge them by the things that are most organic and least virtual about socialization;

          Body language, tone of voice, attitude in general... everything that is read between the lines of mere vocabulary. All the ways in which someone expresses themselves apart from their choice of words. All those things that are incommunicable via keyboard.

          Up to this point in the conversation I thought that two people creating music together embodied exactly the characteristics of "non-virtual" socialization that you seem to value. I think Birdia's idea lends a lot of credit to the reasons you have for guarding yourself from cyber-socialization. No one wants to miss out on those organic interactions!
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        Aug 22 2011: ah, birdia, that link was quite a treat.
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        Aug 22 2011: jim: "I speak differently every time I open up my mouth. I'm an actor"

        gotcha! you call it socialization when people can see you acting!

        (kidding)
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        Aug 22 2011: "I hope I'm not giving you the impression that I think any less of someone who disagrees with my point of view"

        no, not at all. but i decided that i can't take your words about the social media seriously until you make at least one rage comic. and the same goes for me, of course. i don't take myself seriously either, till i face that trial!
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          Aug 25 2011: I checked out rage comics. I like them!! They are clever, irreverent and funny!!! I love things like that. Have you heard of the production company "Funny or Die"? It may be on youtube. It's in the same vein as rage comics.

          But I'm still feeling a little lost as to how they are a form of socialization vs. a form of communication and artist expression, both of which I don't see as having much to do with what I call socialization.
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          Aug 25 2011: I understand what you are saying... but I'm still conflicted about it.

          I have argued that there is an outcome to face-to-face socialization that makes it a deeper, fundamentally more effective form of socialization than the others I keep referring to as virtual/cyber socialization. I still think that is more or less true. But I have more of an understanding today than I did 5 days ago because of the perspectives of people like you, Krisztain, Birdia, Debra, Mathieu and the rest.

          In this discussion it has been argued that the interaction between musicians during a concert, recording session, jam, etc. is a form of socialization. I don't know.... Perhaps in a secondary way. I know musicians who play with others while they are off in a world of their own, almost in a trance. If there is a social aspect to the process of creating music (and I now can see that there is) it is essentially a by-product of the creative process.

          I think Mathieu is most persuasive: "as a musician I want to let you know, Jim, that it is impossible to create music alongside someone else without learning to gauge them by the things that are most organic and least virtual about socialization"

          I really can't argue with that!

          But doesn't face-to-face socialization have characteristics that other forms lack? It is these things: eye contact, tone of voice, body language, the surrounding milieu, the visual ques, the sensual (having to do with the senses) aspects that make me think that face-to-face is by far and away the most powerful form of socialization.

          But yes, given the advances in technology, we now have many other forms of socialization that have an impact on society. All good.


          Letter writing, talking on the telephone, facebook, sending videos, texting - they are forms of socialization
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      Aug 22 2011: I like Krisztian's point above. What makes this relationship that I have with all of you 'virtual'? I feel as though it is real. I know that some of my opinions have ticked some of you off as though we were discussing things in real time and in real life. I know that I have come to truly respect and admire many here regardless of whether we are always on the same side of the issues. For example, I look forward to Krisztian's every post because I am convinced that he sees the world very differently than I do but with a great heart toward a better world. What does he know that I do not? How does he put the evidence together in a way that constructs it quite differently than I do? I am fascinated by the idea that two people of good will can see economic systems do diametrically opposite. In the end, I truly value him as I do many others for their good will and logic. These are not virtual feelings.

      I think that a venue like TED is amazingly real for engendering greater understanding. I may not get to shake your hand or give you a hug but I sure hold many of you in my heart in a very real way.
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        Aug 22 2011: Yes, it's real, no doubt about it!!! But is it socializing?? And if you think it is, do you see it as being more or less a form of socialization than face-to-face in real time socialization. That's my question.

        TED is a great venue for sharing ideas, debate, etc. but I don't think there is much socialization involved - and am glad of that (although I would love to meet many of the people I exchange ideas with. But until I do, we haven't really socialized... I think :}
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        Aug 24 2011: Debra: " I look forward to Krisztian's every post because I am convinced that he sees the world very differently than I do"

        There is another TED conversation going on where someone told the following story that I think has it's roots in Native American oral tradition. Here it is:

        "There was a man who had four sons whom he wanted to teach not to judge things too quickly.

        He sent each of them on a mission to go and look at a pear tree that was far away.

        The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in the summer and the youngest in the fall or autumn.

        When they had all gone and arrived, he called them together to describe to him what they saw.

        The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.

        The second son said that the tree was covered by green buds and was full of promise.

        The third son disagreed and said the tree was full of sweet smelling blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful.

        The last son said that he saw the tree full of ripe fruit ready to be picked and full of life and fulfillment.

        The father explained to them that all of them were right because each of them saw the tree in only one and different season of life.

        He told them that you couldn’t judge a tree by only one season of life. The essence of what it is can only be measured at the end after completing all the seasons."

        Debra, that story explains why you hold other's opinions and perspectives in high regard. I found this video of the same story. I really love it:

        The Pear Tree
        http://youtu.be/0hfj67wf7HE
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          Aug 24 2011: More evidence that you are an exceptional teacher, Jim!

          I think that what we do is socializing even if it is different than what is done in real life. In some ways I think it is deeper and more sincere and based on more solid things (if the person is not choosing to represent themself as other than they think or believe.) Here we talk about the issues that are near and dear to our hearts with courage. If I had met you in a bar or at the library, extraneous issues would cloud our conversation. You would look at me and think that you know a lot about me- my sex, my attractiveness or lack of it, my socio-economic status (at least as represented), perhaps my level of education as I represented it and I would more or less subconsciously be informed by your physical being as well. Here we have almost none of that. We are curious to know what the other thinks and feels.
          I love having a chance to socialize in both ways- it enriches me.

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