Communication and the Art of Not Communicating
Men don’t care what’s on TV. They only care what else is on TV. – Jerry Seinfeld
Recently Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) tweeted a photo from the stage of his panel at SXSWi. His intent was to show the throng of people who had showed up for his early morning panel. I’d like to discuss how attending a 9:30 a.m. panel classifies one as a “morning bird”, but that post is for another day. What struck me about his picture is the fact that not one, let me repeat that, “NOT ONE” of the people pictured in his audience is in a conversation with their neighbor. Seriously, look. Everyone’s attention is focused on whatever is happening on their mobile device. Here we are at SXSWi – the “i” stands for “Interactive” by the way – and there isn’t one person “interacting”. An entire conference focused on how to engage with people, communicate your message, develop your digital listening skills, and we have an audience doing none of that…
I’ll admit that I am being hypocritical here, and I am as fused to my phone as anyone. Hell, I’m not even paying attention to myself as I write this because I’m more curious as to what’s going on in my Facebook news stream. But this photo is stunning to me. When did we become so adept and aware of the importance of communication yet completely lose the ability to communicate?
Everywhere I go, I see the scene in Jeremiah’s audience playing out. In airports, malls, family gatherings, and most frighteningly, behind the wheel of cars!!! We have become so consumed with consuming the world within our mobile devices that we no longer notice the real world go on around us.
Technology allows us to do magical things that we couldn’t have dreamt about even 10 years ago. And that is a good thing. But it has also made us slaves to those things. Paraphrasing Seinfeld, we don’t want to know what’s going on around us; we want to know what’s else is going on.
I got an idea. Let’s take some time everyday and look for opportunities to engage with the people around us, you know, like in the olden days before iphones, when we really communicated with each other. Next time you’re in the audience at an event, waiting for Jeremiah (or whomever) to tell you how important it is to communicate with your audience…communicate with your audience – those people around you – ya, that guy sitting right next to you. Stop tweeting, stop checking in, stop posting, stop texting, and stop browsing because that guy right next to you has a fascinating story to share, and so do you.