In Praise of Face to Face

A few years back, I organized a meet and greet for the Dalai Lama at the Waldorf Hotel in New York.  It’s never a shame to meet one of the greatest leaders in the world.   Truly a grand moment but I guess you had to be there.  That’s exactly the point.  Life’s true moments happen face to face.

We’ve all heard the statistics on the importance of non-verbal communication.  Whether that figure is 90% or two-thirds, it figures to be a major part of getting your point across.  However, technology has somewhat shied away from easing this point of communication. 

Companies such as Facebook and LinkedIn do a wonderful job of introducing people into a hyper-connected world.  These technologies along with others allow us to control our communication so as to create a virtual presence that translates into real world value.  While this quantified self may be perfected through sharing, liking and linking, it fails to capture the inefficiency of what it is to be human.  Being human is being imperfect, uncontrolled and inefficient.  The power of face-to-face communication is sifting through these obtuse social cues to create relationships with another person. 

At some point in the future, technology may reach a point where we can substitute physical presence for online affectations.  For example, a technology startup, Affectiva, is edging closer to that reality.  The startup has developed a way to use webcams to read facial expressions and gauge emotion.  Also, 60 minutes demonstrated the future by looking at advertising’s evolving advantage.  For now, technology may be able to recognize your gender but what happens when it can recognize the hidden content behind our smiles and cries?  Will that be a better world or just one in which face-to-face steps aside for convenience?

The beauty of meeting and conversing with others is not easily replicable because it is not predictable.  A meeting helps to create emotion.  A meeting helps to create trust and relationships.  A meeting helps to create commerce.  Commerce depends on trust.  Trust is reciprocity coated by emotion.  It is cyclical.  Meetings may, at times, be boring and/or tedious but that’s reality.  A more natural form to create a interplay between people and technology is introducing technology as a role player of face to face meetings.  Thoughts?


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