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Monday July 26th 2021

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Pleased to Almost Meet You

By MARTI MALTBY

I stole the title for this column from Colin Hay, the lead singer from Men Without Hats. His song “Pleased to Almost Meet You’ is a tongue in cheek commentary on how people these days tend to talk a lot about getting together without ever actually meeting. The song opens with the lines:

I’m pleased to almost meet you
The pleasure’s almost mine
I can see that you’re busy
Perhaps another time
I’m pleased to almost meet you
Here let me get that door
No need for conversation
They do say less is more

Before covid hit, I heard many people talk about being too busy to spend time with friends or family. After covid hit and everyone started interacting through video chats, the discussion focused on how much people missed face to face interaction. Now I’ve heard debates about whether workers will want to come back to the office or stay at home, whether we will keep connecting with far-flung friends through our phones or just go back to meeting at coffee shops, and whether we will gather in places of worship or simply watch online videos of the services from the comfort of our pajamas and living room couches.

As the discussions have evolved, I’ve been interested more in the reasons someone would choose one alternative over another. Some argue that returning to the office will spark greater creativity as workers share ideas and experiences, while others proclaim the benefits of being able to focus on a project without being distracted by coworkers. Creativity versus efficiency – which will win? Will we value personal comfort over communal health?

I have no idea what our future socializing will look like, or which values will dominate our future interactions, but I have come to a few conclusions. First, I think many people have realized how much they really need to be connected to others. For all the binge watching of television shows and all the online shopping, many of us realized that personal interaction means more to our emotional wellbeing than we had realized. Computers can only do so much for us. We still need to play, to connect, to be heard, and to contribute to something beyond ourselves to feel whole.

Second, as a society we’ve learned a lot about the opportunities and limitations of technology. Hopefully we’ll use this lesson to find the balance between interpersonal interactions and impersonal transactions. Computers can do some things for us that would be time consuming and agonizing if we did them ourselves, but we’ve also learned that some things, like conversations with the people around us, shouldn’t be moderated by a computer screen. At least, I hope we learned that. As I said, I don’t know what the future will look like.

The optimistic part of me believes that I have learned from this time and that I will have a richer life because of it. I hope the same for all of you.

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