Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Path from Inter-action to Extr-action

Every once in a while I like to take a step back from our day-to-day world of Search Engine Marketing and ponder some other facets of how technology is impacting our lives. This blog is one of those times.

One of the inherent promises of technology, including the internet (aka the world wide web), has always been that of paving the way to better communications. It seems like each new advance these days is heralded as proof that we are living in an exciting “age of connectivity” or “era of interactivity.” Yet, at the very time we are supposed to be more engaged with the world it seems many of us are actually becoming more reclusive and removed. Follow me down this path that leads from interaction to extraction.

It starts when interaction becomes interruption. No one will argue how easy it is for us to keep in touch with each other via cell phones, email, text and instant messaging, etc. Yet, it is this ease of access that actually then limits our ability to control that access. How many times have we been interrupted when we or others get cell calls in meetings, in movies, in the car, even when we could just have easily been reached on the home or office phone? How many times have we been in the middle of writing an important document when an urgent/high priority email pops up in the inbox? With these interruptions comes a disproportional sense of urgency – get back to me fast and, preferably, before you do anything else.

So interruption becomes distraction. Distraction from what you were doing before the interruption. And there are other kinds of distractions besides the ubiquitous cell phone. There is the technology overload distraction that is becoming prevalent in the form of multi-tech-ing. The i-Pod listener working on a computer with wireless connection at Starbucks. The too-many-options distraction that comes with pages and pages of search engine results. How many times have you wandered off surfing the net, clicking on pages that seem interesting but have really nothing to do with your search? That never happened when you were using the actual phone book. When you looked for Chinese restaurants in the Yellow Pages you found Chinese restaurants and didn’t get diverted exploring “urban legends” (ask me how that happened sometime). Do I need to mention pop-up distractions?

How do we deal with these interruptions and distractions? By removing them? No, by removing ourselves. The drop-outs of the 60s have become the opt-outs of 06. We put ourselves on “do not call” lists. We use caller id to screen calls the way we used answering machines back when they were the new technology. And we use the technology to be anonymous or hide behind alter-egos (anything but ourselves) on blogs, myspace pages, etc. We’re not human, we’re screen names and avatars.

And there it is -- the promise of our interaction leads to the reality (virtual and otherwise) of our extra-action and extraction. That which was supposed to make us closer, leads us further apart faster and faster every day.

Hold that thought -- the cell’s ringing, got to answer the IM from my son, and I want to finish watching the show from last night that’s been running on my DVR while I “reply all with bcc” to these 3 urgent emails….

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