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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

When do we « know » someone?

I got out of my office 15 minutes ago and instead of hurrying where I wanted to go as I usually do, I stopped and looked around me. Most people were facing their computer screens working on something (or pretending to do so?). Today’s white collars spend almost all of their time in front of a computer. Of course, people do talk to each other from time to time, sometimes for work but often for personal conversations.

Humans are social creatures. We need to belong to something bigger than ourselves, a community. The most cited critic about distance work is that people miss this community feeling, this acquaintance.

When someone asks me if I know someone else, my answer will never be “yes” if I haven’t met the person face to face. Why is that? Do I need to recognize one’s face? I don’t think. I interact with a lot of people that I’ve seen only on pictures but that I never met and I don’t pretend to know them. Is it smell? Touch? Maybe it has nothing to do with the 5 senses.

Do I know my work colleagues? Yes? Not really. Do I know my wife and kids? I hope. My opinion: Knowing someone is about building a community with this person, about sharing interests and beliefs, and most of all about recognizing ourselves in the other. I just don't know why it seems it can't be done online as effectively as meeting someone face to face. Even videoconferencing doesn't seem to be a good substitute.

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