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Watching a recent TED talk – Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone

She discusses the effect of mobile phones on our social construct. Sherry noted our human need to ‘not be alone’ and how we’re shaping conversations over digital interactions rather than dealing with the messiness of face-to-face conversation.

It occurred to me that a snippet was missed off…

What wasn’t discussed was this idea of tribes and how digital tools are re-enabling an innate need for small groups or teams.

Joe Rogan occasionally talks about:

  • The maximum number of faces we can remember  – known as Dunbars number
    • Or max number of relationships we can maintain
  • Idea that humans aren’t designed for these massive settlements and social groups. We are more accustomed to small tribes or villages where we know everyone.

Seth Godin discusses the new types of tribes that are emerging:

  • Those centered around an idea
  • Those based on a common goal
  • Set of beliefs

This means that we’re no longer tied to a geographical region. We don’t have to be limited by our close surroundings. Instead we can connect with those people we choose to.

Now a common occurrence in public places is for people to resort to their mobile devices rather than engage in conversation with strangers.

It typically takes unusual circumstances or social lubrication (alcohol) for people to break protocol and engage in conversation with strangers.

However, why should people bother with conversation outside of their social circle? They’re risking:

  • Common interests (or lack of)
  • Common geographical residence (or lack of)
  • Common friends (or lack of)

Isn’t it easier to converse with those who have already proven to meet that criteria?

So it seems that mobile devices are helping us to maintain our tribes, regardless of geography.

Sometimes at the detriment of “the present”. Such that you have a bus or train full of people who might all enjoy each others company; but instead they’re glued to their phones communicating with people miles away.

Right or wrong, that’s how things are trending.

Note: just edited this slightly in 2022, although it was originally written in 2013 (above TED talk is from 2012). Well, the trend has continued…

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