Let’s Get Personal
People are escaping their computers in search of real social interaction
Life / 10 Sep 2010
Facebook too often serves as a replacement for genuine social relations and, no matter how much we fool ourselves, this reliance on digital discourse has reached the point in which being defriended by a mere acquaintance in the virtual world hurts almost as much as being shunned at a dinner party. With more people recognizing the emotional dangers of excessive screen time, there is a growing movement of what we've dubbed "social exploration" happening in the offline world.
Open House Dining: As part of this month's Brighton & Hove Food Festival in the UK, Pretty Clever Events is reviving the Open House Dining series that was so successful last September. The concept encourages curious Brighton residents to host strangers in their dining rooms for a home cooked meal. Guests do not receive the address of the cook's house until they have booked a reservation for the menu that most appeals to them. Adding to the adventure, the identities of their dining companions are not revealed until they all arrive at the meal, thereby forcing guests to rediscover the art of conversation. The experience also incorporates some friendly competition - in the spirit of culinary challenge show Come Dine With Me, diners have the opportunity to exercise their critical palates by formally reviewing the meal, with prizes awarded to the best chef and best reviewer.
Friend Dating: Looking for love online may be old hat, but actively searching for platonic friendships has yet to become common practice. That may be changing, though, as more people are cruising for friends online with whom they can hang. CitySocialising currently has 100,000 members, in 50 British cities and towns, looking for companionship. Similar to the long popular Meetup, members can join groups that share a niche interest or attend organized events for those in search of good company. Most members are new to the city and in search of friends to help them settle in, but others use the site simply to spark social stimulation. There is even a service called Rent a Friend that charges $15 per hour for matching likeminded partners who can get together for activities ranging from wine tasting to museum going. With so many free ways to meet strangers, however, we find this idea to be a somewhat desperate measure.
Coffee Bars: As the concept of "working from home" has become synonymous with "working from my neighborhood Starbucks," a growing number of coffee shops are shunning the isolating 'office space' trend in favor of design schemes that facilitate social interaction. As noted by the NYT, Stumptown Coffee Roasters in NYC's Ace Hotel, Café Grumpy's new Park Slope outpost, and Intelligentsia in Venice Beach have all found success in this shift away from coffee bar-cum-workspace culture. Reminiscent of authentic Italian espresso bars, establishments like these are losing the comfy chairs in favor of standing room-only bars or stools at chest-high counters. The idea is not to spend the day hiding behind a laptop, but rather downing a coffee next to a fellow customer. This 'new' coffee bar is an ideal place for novice social explorers to test the waters, as the time it takes to drink a coffee is just long enough for engaging in some chit-chat without becoming conversationally committed.
©The Intelligence Group