John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Nobody Wants to Talk to Me Anymore! Part 2

John N. Gardner

Everything in my training as an academic developed in me this irrepressible urge to give complete, well developed, well supported answers.  I developed this passion for substance. I came to love compound/complex sentences. Ask me to write 100 words and that is much more challenging than writing 10,000 or even 1000.

No doubt about it, the internet has leveled the playing field between the extroverts like me and those at the opposite end of the introversion/extroversion scale. I am happy to see the introverts liberated but I now feel lonely as the commercialized Maytag Repairman.

Recently my staff and I participated in a very important academic meeting as we have for many previous year. At this meeting we will have multiple presentation sessions and an exhibit booth.  This year we had a significant reduction in booth traffic during which people could have come by and talked to us/me real time. But our website traffic during the same period as the conference went up dramatically, so much so I found it almost hard to believe. And that is what was the final straw inspiring this post.  I am convinced. People would much rather, for many reasons, get their information on the web than have to interact real time, in conversation, with others. This process, now the norm, is much easier for the information seeker to control; it is perceived to be faster, more convenient and allowing privacy if the seeker doesn’t want the information provider to know that the information is being sought.  There are many people who must like it this way better, even though they can remember the old way of seeking information real time, in person, via conversation. And then there are many younger people who have never known any other way. Increasingly, those will be the only people populating our classes.

So what’s a talker like me to do? Adjust. Find other outlets for talking. Enjoy the opportunities I still have with even more intentionality. And work hard to provide information for people now in the ways they most seem to want it. Of course, this is change. And my occupation is also about helping colleges change. But is it progress…?

The academic in me would answer: “Well, it all depends…” And then I would be tempted to write a very long answer making sure I attempted to look at all possible sides of the question.

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