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Inter-Net or Inter-human?

November 22, 2010
Imagine if their wives would have joined too...

Photographer: William Hall Raine. Photographic Archive, Alexander Turnbull Library

Just an hour ago, I found a post by Lauren A. McHenry:

How to make contact… with humans, that is.

Posted on November 19, 2010

by Lauren A. McHenry

I tried to re-blog it on my site here, but nothing happened. So I’ll copy the text here (Lauren, let me know if you don’t agree) and I will write my comment to it just as I did when I tried to add the comment on the attempt to re-blog Lauren’s post …


How to make contact… with humans, that is.

Posted on November 19, 2010

by Lauren A. McHenry

Hearts can help us disconnect from cell phones, laptops, media, etc.

When was the last time you wrote a friend a small note of appreciation? Smiled at a stranger? Hugged a parent or grandparent for no reason at all?

In order to separate us (living, breathing, emotional beings) from the technological tools we are constantly connected to, we need to make more contact with each other.  Because the truth is: impressions and memories are the things we leave behind once our hearts give out; nobody will care where your cell phone ends up!

To slowly ease out of your love-making with all things technological, here are a few easy steps to try:
~Un-bud: If you have humans anywhere in your immediate vicinity (5-10 feet), remove your ear-buds if they have not permanently grown roots in to your brain. You will already appear more inviting to others!
~Quit anxiously patting your pockets: You know what I’m talking about. This ritual is exhibited best by the anxious human in search of their cell phone. There probably is no text/call, but they just have to “make sure.”  Quit checking, and maybe make eye contact with a fellow human (just because your phone can do more than your girlfriend/boyfriend does not mean it counts as an actual person).
~Hold the door for someone, just because: Chances are, the human will appreciate this gesture and say “Thank you!”. In case you encounter a hostile human (you may not be able to tell the difference during your first month of new contact), who does NOT politely thank you, feel free to say, “You’re welcome!” anyway.  This is my favorite mind-game to play, since the offender has no response; what can they say? “I didn’t say ‘thank you!’?”
~Give a loved one a hug: This trick should be performed on an unsuspecting- but very deserving human- and is relatively easy to do.  Simply wrap your arms around the subject, and squeeze lightly once embraced. You will have to find the appropriate strength-’o-squeeze, as too light of a hug is awkward, and too tight of a hug can be deemed creepy.

While those simple tips may seem obvious, many of us are often too ‘rushed,’ ‘busy,’ ‘stressed,’ etc. to worry about making another person’s day.  If you try to make emotional contact with at least one human a day, you may find yourself surrounded by more “friends” that don’t require chargers, batteries or any type of cord.


[ L a u r e n ]

So far Lauren’s post. It was so gratifying to read! I’ll explain below why I liked it so much, it goes back to something what I was doing more than 20 years ago…

I am sure that many of us spend a lot of time behind a screen, by definition time which we could also spend to visit a friend, or family, if we wouldn’t have had a computer and/or internet – So, we, definitely you (who reads this) and I (who read the original post and who writes about it now), indeed tend to spend less time directly with friends and to-be-friends.

When I read this blog, one day jumped back to my mind, about 22 years ago in my office  (at that time at the UvA in Amsterdam). I shared one office with my colleagues Bas and Ben (but Ben wasn’t in the room).

In that week, I was programming an educational game (just for the fun of it – no commercial intentions) on a 8088 PC, looking at a screen with big green fluorescent characters….

By the way, the game was about phytoplankton (what else?). It allowed the user to pick a location on earth. The program would make an algal production pond there, calculating the real solar passage through the sky to simulate the light which would be present at that spot at the day of the user’s choice when the game begins . The user could set wind speed, pond depth, density of phytoplankton. The program, however, would then simulate arbitrary wind and cloud events, and calculate how much light penetrated the water, noting the position of a few thousand cells (Monte Carlo approach), and calculating how fast the cells were growing. The player’s task was to manipulate water flow through the pond, the rate of harvest, and the pond depth, in an effort to get the highest possible production of phytoplankton….

…Had I known to what importance playing games would get, I should have continued developing that idea!

Anyhow, I was the only player of what I though was a great game…… not much fun at first sight, but it did provide interesting systemic data on how algal ponds react to natural weather disturbances. And I used that insight in one of my the chapters of my thesis! … The invested gaming time paid back well.

As said, I did not expect that gaming would become such an important social and economical reality. But what I did realize at that time, was, that I was sure that your average citizen would spend a lot of time behind the PC in the future. If the simple game that I had written did allow me to feel transposed into another role, I was sure, that the future could do much more interesting things with people behind a computer screen.

Other thing that was going on at that time, was that I had pulled a cable through the lift shafts in order to connect one PC with another and then to the ‘internet’. At that time in the Netherlands, there were 12 or so computers connected to what already was called the web….we could send very simple e-messages from one PC to the other…The number of nodes increased every day, I stopped counting and tracking them when more than a few hundred computers came online…..

So I told Bas (and I remember it almost literally!):  ‘Hey, I think that many people will lock themselves up in their home, just to be able to dive into some kind of virtual world – I think that they will talk to each other by communicating through their computers. And if the technology improves, they can hear and see each other, therefore, no need anymore to visit each other…And as a result, they will not visit each other after work time, as we do. And maybe, some people will get socially isolated…there may even be an effect on how democracy will work….

I can’t remember Bas’ reply. But I think he did not quite agree. At least, I think he thought that people will always feel a need to interact socially with each other.

Well.  Bas was wrong & right in a way. And I was right & wrong in a way.

But Lauren A. McHenry is not only right, she also voices to the right recommendation: it is time, and worthwhile, to be friendly with each other, with everyone you meet;

and if I may add:

with every citizen of this planet, who all share the same, and our only one, world.


Photo by NASA, earth at night


One Comment leave one →
  1. December 22, 2010 6:53 AM

    How are you fellows? Good website, regardless of the fact that not all of it is functioning in the proper way! But that is up to the administrator to deal with or not… What I wanted to share is this scientific new theory, which does seem a bit weird but might help those struggling to find true love and intimacy. This laboratory states they have done a bunch of research and found out that the most compatible people are those who were born on the same date. The only reason why I think they are on to something here is cause their description of those people born on the same day as me is totally right on. This is very weird. The way my love life is going I am willing to try anything at this point.

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