It was a chilly February morning when I stumbled into Street Coffee located on N. 7th. It was about a 10 minute walk from my dorm building so naturally, on the way there, I decided to check up on my Twitter timeline, post to my Snapchat story, respond to a few emails, text my parents and wish my sorority sister a happy birthday via Facebook. Before I had even opened my mouth, I had made hundreds of connections through a screen; however, I failed to make a single connection with any stranger passing me on the street.
When I arrived at Street Coffee I was greeted by a friendly barista. Despite the 45 degree weather, I ordered an iced coffee. The store manager, Andy Smith, completed my transaction and we began a conversation about his life in Arizona.
“I don’t think Arizona people are all that friendly. There is no love in neighbors. Most people don’t talk to each other,” said Smith.
I immediately realized that I was guilty of his accusation. This was the first conversation I had partaken in and it was already mid-morning. I consider myself social to my standards; however, to the standards of a traditional baby boomer, my habit of multi-tasking with a screen in front of my face may be interpreted as stand-offish and aloof. Although I was making connections with others on my venture to the coffee shop, they were not ‘genuine’ to the standards of someone who had grown up dependent on face-to-face connections.
“It was totally different when I grew up. Now people come and go. There is no time for neighbors… most parents don’t even have time for their own kids. It takes two incomes to get ahead and keep up with the cost of living—it’s a rat race,” said Smith.
According to 247 Wall St, “the value of coffee has increased 15 times from its price 234 years ago.” The cost of living in America has sky rocketed, forcing younger generations to adopt competitiveness by nature. In a ‘sink-or-swim’ society, we are forced to hold onto anything that will aid us in keeping afloat. Social media has become a life jacket as it gives us the illusion that we are always productive. While it is a tool that may aid us in keeping our head above water, it is not going to do all of the work for us—we still have to know how to tread water.
Forbes brings up an excellent point in their article ‘Why Face-To-Face Meetings Are So Important’: “If the point of business were simply to accomplish as many tasks as possible, then yes, an email would probably do. But that’s not what real leadership is about.” Leadership is about communication and building relationships with people. Face-to-face communication should never become obsolete and if this skill is the one that suffers due to a heavy technological footprint, it forces me question if our quest for productivity is really worth it.
See what I see: Street Coffee via bubbli
I am currently blogging in the back corner of Street Coffee. I can see everything. I have seen the people who come and go but I have also seen the people who linger. Sure, there are people who are concealed behind their screens but there is a buzz that lies throughout this place. There’s balance.
I don’t think that it is ‘awful’ to take advantage of technology; however, screens become toxic when they are too heavily relied upon. After my conversation with Smith, I am cognizant of my own dependence on social media and am reminded of the importance of creating genuine interactions with others.