Individualism is encouraged by screens. The internet is certainly an important resource that has made new forms of increasingly efficient communication possible, but our screens are mostly designed to operate for a single user. No need to ask for directions when we can just google them ourselves. And we can read reviews instead of asking people what their opinions are in person.
But studies show that people remember you better if you interact with them face-to-face. Nonverbal cues exhibited in our body language (eye contact, a smile, a handshake) enhance our ability to connect and form successful relationships.
Recently my most successful and enjoyable interactions have been in person. Often they have led to invitations to converse more over coffee, offers to connect me with another person, and tips about interesting events and opportunities to interact with new communities.
Recently I have been fortunate enough to be in contact with artists and producers connected with the Boiler House Concert Series hosted by the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, I have been expanding my contacts of professors, administrators, and students at Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory, and New England Conservatory, and I had valuable conversations with both the owner and director of the Boston Brass Ensemble as well as the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Ballet.
I am expanding my network and all it takes is putting myself out there. Talking to real people who do real things in the real world.
When I was conducting my research in Cuba in 2017 I was amazed and refreshed by Cuban social culture. Because of the very limited amount of wifi and other tech, in-person interaction is still the foundation of their experience. If you want to talk to your friend then you walk to their house and knock on the door. If you need directions, have a problem, or want to share a thought, you turn to the people around you.
I am not saying that we need to abandon screens, but we need to remember that we are social animals who have better chances of succeeding within a network of other people (a community). A New York Times Article recently highlighted the importance of maintaining “Low-stakes casual friendships” because it is easier to acknowledge your own humanity when you acknowledge other peoples’ humanity consistently in your every-day life.
I encourage people to be vulnerable with confidence. Put yourself out there. Highlight your strengths and publicize your creations, but also show humility and humanity and respect. Know where you have room to grown and don’t feel bad about it. Talk to people who share your interests, other creators who are more experienced with you. Connect with others, continue learning and create!