Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oh innovation...

New Walgreens Facebook Plugin Allows Users to See What Prescriptions Friends Are Picking Up

This may be an article from The Onion, meaning it's meant to be farce, but it brings up a good point.  Why is it that people care so much about what their "friends" are doing?  I suppose it's the mediated experience of life these days.  We put media and devices in place to make interactions as much as possible like there's no technology, but to make the experience less noticeably tech-involved, we add another layer of technology, which in the end makes us farther away from the original tech-free interaction.  Example: Talking to a friend on skype.  Yes, it's almost like talking in person, but we both need to have computers with video cameras and microphones and high speed internet (and electricity) for it to work at all.  That's several layers of technology.  At the root of it, we are both sitting behind glowing screens.

If you use facebook as much as I do (and shouldn't but it happens), you may have noticed lately that facebook is adding features like "Bill is currently listening to..." feeds using some app or whatever, and the location check in has been around for quite some time, so when you're out somewhere you use facebook to announce it.  Facebook is telling you in real time what your "friends" are doing - exercising, listening to, etc.

It adds levels of interaction for sure, but it also means that we have to spend more time at our computer/mobile device screens to do so.  Last week I went to a record store and I browsed through albums for a few minutes.  In years gone by, my friends would have lived in the same town as me, and we might have run into each other in that record shop on occasion, and asked each other what we were listening to these days, then gone and touched physical copies of albums (in whatever format - CD, LP, cassette) before buying anything.  My friends would have seen me out in the community at a restaurant because we'd have frequented the same relatively small number of places.  We'd have bumped into each other in the grocery store and said hello and caught up on things like who's gotten a new job or had a baby or whatever.

None of those in person interactions happen these days because of the screens we plant ourselves behind.  I can order groceries online, I shop for music online, I say hello to friends online via email or facebook (or twitter or foursquare or pinterest if you're into that), and I don't live anywhere near a great many friends so I wouldn't run into them in a restaurant no matter how hard I tried.  Because we no longer practice actually catching up with people in person, we don't do it very often at all.  When I see someone I haven't seen in a long time out in the community, I often go hide and pretend I didn't see them because I have no idea how to have that "Hey! How are you? I haven't seen you in years but what have you been up to?" conversation.  Or I'm afraid I'd screw it up and be honest about what I've been up to and overshare.  But I don't think I'm alone in this. I don't see people under 40 or so having the same chats in the grocery store that you see people older having, where they go on about kids or job promotions or retirements.

I don't know what it means, but it's a change in our lives we all need to start addressing and probably in person rather than through screens if we can manage it.

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