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The Real Social Network

The future is here. Over the past couple of decades, computers have begun to replace our math and grammar skills, edged us out of our jobs for financial efficiency, and even substituted our presence on the moon and undersea. We, as humans, are now becoming obsolete to the machines we have created (thank you, Mary Shelley for predicting a future of Dr. Frankenstein vs. The Creature). Now as a final phase of the process, we have become so used to this mechanized world, that we, too, are turning into computers—zombie-like, creativity-impaired computers. And as a warning: it didn’t end well for Dr. Frankenstein.

The most astonishing form of this transition comes by the way of communication. This isn’t just the deterioration of communication through the obvious channels: text-messaging, Facebook posting or any other type of virtual speech. Instead, it’s in the way we think (or don’t think) when we are speaking to our fellow humans. Every response to a question has a colloquial counterpart that can be bounced back. Wish you wouldn’t have partied so hard in college and made better choices? Monday morning quarterbacking’s a bear. Envious of your friend’s new condo? The grass is always greener on the other side.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg (isn’t it original to compare the magnitude of the problem with a submerged mass of ice?). I was reading my Marie Claire magazine: a typical place for women to flock when they want standard advice to problems that the fashion industry imparted upon them. And there, in the @Work section (because even magazine editors must shorten “at”), were conversation starters for a working dinner. Not Dale Carnegie-natured tips, but rather advice for people who just folded-up their tents and moved out of the woods. The first pointer was to ask about the weather…for the duration of the appetizer. When the main course comes, you may then move onto a deeper discussion, asking about the recent deal you negotiated in the office. But, as Marie Claire warns, that stops when dessert is placed in front of you, as it is now time to converse about something less stressful, like weekend plans.

So getting past whomever’s annoying idea it was to parallel your conversation with the complexity of the courses, like some kind of symbolism, when in history did we begin to demand a guide-book for how to converse with other people?

This transformation was born from nothing other than competition. In a world where every job is a coveted position, where every conversation has an ulterior motive, and where every process has become mechanized for efficiency, there isn’t a need to be creative with dialogue. The appropriate responses to questions have become streamlined so that we always have the best answer possible. But here’s an idea: we could all talk to each other like people. We could stop pretending that the weather is something interesting to talk about, especially at a working dinner. We could realize that it’s possible to meet an executive without going to a networking event. We could even genuinely respond to our friends, instead of saying true, or that’s crazy to something that we all know wasn’t that crazy.

Spoiler alert: at the end of Frankenstein, everyone dies. The Creature prevails. So instead of social networking, just be social…and don’t let the world turn you into a science experiment.

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