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Are we socially evolving or dissolving with technology?

Are we socially evolving or dissolving with technology?

Friday 9 September, 2016
Developments in technology have seen an explosion in human to human interconnectivity, but for those left behind, feeling more alienated than before…is there still a place to call home?
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In 1987, I had 11 pen-friends across the globe. In 2016, I still have one of those pen-friends, on Facebook. Ben was from Buffalo, New York and I’ve met him twice in my lifetime face to face. I used to write letters and he’d reply with a single page dot-matrix printed letter, typed on the new family Commodore 64. Back in the old days, International Penfriends would give you a little paper card with the very basic contact details of your pen-friend match, with a few bullet points on the back of how to start up a conversation. It was easy, and Ben and I are still sharing our life adventures 29 years later.

As a digital marketer, I have a bit of a love affair going on with technology. I’ve experienced many fabulous advances thanks to tech; such as WordPerfect, the mouse, a walkman, CDs, fax machines, GPS, laptops and the Internet. As everything that was difficult seemed like so much less work with tech, it made sense that Facebook and other social networks would make socialising and connectivity easier too. But what I’ve always once thought of as being technological genius, I’m now starting to see as socially corrosive.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook for many reasons. I love it because I can see the advances it’s made on my life-before-Facebook connections. A letter to Ben used to take two weeks minimum before I’d receive a response (which is actually quite good considering the 2016-Australia-Post-experience-of-delivering-mail in comparison). Facebook takes about 12 hours due to the time difference. The art of conversation was as simple as a few bullet points to get warmed up, and slowly but surely, we’d open up about who we were, what we stood for and believed in, what we wanted out of life. We were genuinely honest because didn’t have any need to compete with anyone else. When I met Ben for the first time, we had body language to supplement our conversation, we had facial expressions, we had a connection.

There’s even a book for young people on how to have social conversations outside of social networks. We’re regressing, not progressing. But I do think technology is a problem-solver. People need connections and food. Simple.
What about meeting people in today’s landscape? We’re hiding behind so-called anonymous screens, we’re competing with enhanced profiles and performing personas for the public masses. We say what we think others want to hear, not what we truly feel. Social networking has never left us more lonely and disconnected from others before. There’s even a book for young people on how to have social conversations outside of social networks. We’re regressing, not progressing.

But I do think technology is a problem-solver. People need connections and food. Simple. Not all solutions suit everyone though, for instance I’m not a Tinder or Netflix-and-chill kind of girl. So I’ve taken the problem of social connectedness and belonging and married this to technology to create the app MeetUp.EatUp. Using a few key interests in a profile, MeetUp.EatUp connects like-minded people in a social environment, over a meal. Think of the profile questions as your bullet points on the back of your pen-friend card. Users create a MeetUp.EatUp, starting with some ground rules (like how many seats at the table and some basic interests), book your dining venue and invite people you’d like to attend. Hosting your own EatUp means other people can request to join your event. Alternatively, you can search for an EatUp that appeals to you, register your interest with the organiser and join a new group of people for a meal. A meal then becomes a convenient vehicle for your meet up – rather than meeting in some random place with no purpose other than to “meet”.

MeetUp.EatUp is designed to harness our wonderful technological advances in human connectedness with a hint of looking up at opportunity, rather than burying our heads in social awkwardness. MeetUp.EatUp is currently in development and we’d love your support for our Kickstarter campaign to push our project into BETA testing.

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