Sydney Avey

Dynamic Women — Changing Times

Improving Our Social Interaction

Jan 18, 2018 | Community | 0 comments

The West Valley Writer’s Critique group (Avondale, AZ) meets in a collaborative workspace, an increasingly popular concept.

Remember the social interaction in As the World Turns? The old soap focused on troubled relationships in a small town. I used to wonder how people who found time to hang around the office coffee pot gossiping and plotting revenge.

Today, the world spins faster. Coffee is grab-and-go. Social media provides the stage for inflammatory rants, and click bait draws our attention to fake news and celebrity antics. If television viewing encouraged people to focus on bad behavior, social media is even worse. Plus, it’s isolating. People stare at their screens far more than they make actual eye contact. But recent news items suggest the tide may be turning.

Physical space for collaboration

WeWork, a company that coaxes entrepreneurs out of their caves into shared office space, has purchased Meetup, an app that helps special interest groups schedule in-person meetings and build membership.

WeWork wants to expand to provide face-to-face meeting space to clubs and organizations. My writer’s critique group uses Meetup to encourage attendance and participation. We meet in a Gangplank space that is similar in concept to WeWork, where we critique each other’s work. Entrepreneurs and creatives surround us. They might be web designers, programmers, or music teachers instructing students in the upstairs studio space.

I am happy to see this emerging bandwagon. The Wall Street Journal reported (11/29/2017) that Mark Zuckerberg has changed Facebook’s mission statement to address “a striking decline in the important social infrastructure of local communities.” Meeting in public is healthy. (At least in those old soaps, someone was always lurking behind a door to overhear an evil plot and foil it.)

Seek face-to-face interaction 

Inviting places to meet are getting harder to find. Restaurants turn up the volume on music to discourage diners from lingering. Automation keeps people from venturing out and experiencing a chance encounter. It’s easier to order online.  But those chance encounters with the store clerk ringing up your groceries or the person in line behind you provide opportunities to raise someone’s spirits or lift your own. Nobody hears a kind word from an automatic check out machine.

Here are some small ways we can improve our social infrastructure.

  • Scout out inviting gathering places to meet friends.
  • Support well-designed spaces that encourage people to gather.
  • Browse Meetup for an appealing special interest group that meets locally.
  •  Pocket the phone and make eye contact with the people who provide service in stores and restaurants. Say something positive or encouraging. Offer an understanding smile to the mom who struggles with her toddler. Slow down for the senior who is working hard to keep her balance. Match her stride for a moment and chat with her.

Bad behavior attracts undue attention. We are a kinder society than we often appear to be on social media. Let’s go public and celebrate goodness every chance we get.

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