Subject: Re: QUERY: What Are The Practical Benefits of Joining An "S.E.A.xx."?
From: Bill Polhemus <bpolhem(--nospam--at)swbell.net>
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 19:24:52 -0600
Shafat Qazi wrote:
> While Internet is a great tool to enhance
> networking, it is NOT a substitute to physical meetings, the handshakes,
> social talk etc. We need to get out more and shake more hands.
While I don't want to presume to speak for Dennis, Shafat, let me put in my own
two cents' worth, as to where I think Dennis is coming from. In so doing, I hope
I will be able to make myself understood, as already I perceive that I have
given a wrong impression on this score.
First, let me say that I know EXACTLY what you mean. We are as creatures, a
curious "compound in one". We have intellect, making us unique among other
creatures, but we do ALSO have our "animal part". We are social creatures and we
are very much fixated on the physical as part of the social.
There really IS no substitute for "face to face" in this regard. A smile, a
handshake, the tone of another's voice, his/her facial expressions and body
language, become fixed in our minds as representative of that person. How many
of us have corresponded via Internet for example, and then had the opportunity
to speak to the person on the phone, and found ourselves slightly surprised at
the person's voice? We tend to free-associate our own mental constructs, giving
that person, who is for all intents and purposes an "abstract" as far as we are
concerned, a "personality" including physical attributes, all unconsciously.
But when we speak to them, or (even more striking) meet them in person, it can
actually be somewhat startling to us, when we realize we really don't "know"
this person at all! We have to "erase" our idealized construct, and replace it
with what we now know about their actual physical attributes.
Sorry to be rather indirect about this, but I am actually leading up to a point.
That is, there are some persons who are just not as "confident" in a "face to
face" setting, but who nevertheless have things to say, ideas to bring forth,
and in short, something to contribute intellectually. But these persons DON'T do
a very good job when the actual, physical demands of social interaction are
made. It's like the cartoon I saw once a few years ago, with the dog sitting at
the computer, and remarking to his doggy-friend: "On the internet, nobody knows
you're a dog."
Now, for some of you that may seem a curious thing. This is because you do not
have this "mental block" (for want of a better term) that hinders you in
social/professional situations. In fact, the most successful people I have known
in my adult life, CRAVE the contact, and the interaction. They wade into these
sorts of groups, shaking hands and slapping backs, making golf dates, getting
updates on the "wife and kids", and generally doing everything a good politician
does except kiss babies (and would do that, too, if any were available).
I have to say I've ALWAYS envied that, ALWAYS. One young man, several years
younger than me, with whom I worked at my last employment, has been active on
ASCE for YEARS. Through that organization, he has made SCORES of contacts in his
field (he is in highway and transportation engineering), and it has stood him in
good stead as he has expanded his career goals to include middle (and shortly, I
believe, 'upper') management. There is NO ONE this fellow doesn't know that is
in any way related to his chosen field. He has given and received favors. He
gave me a list as long as your arm, culled from his Rolodex, of contacts for
potential future customers, and was able to give me the low-down on each and
every person on the list.
But that way of functioning is nearly as foreign to me as if I surreptitiously
flew to Hong Kong and tried to negotiate a business deal, without knowing either
the customs or the Cantonese language. To me, it is intimidating. To him, it is
It is merely a difference in personality, on the one hand, but there is
certainly much more to it than that when you take into account the long-term
So, while Dennis spoke mainly about the logisitical difficulties inherent in his
ability to participate in SEAINT (or lack thereof), for example, I am speaking
really about a different problem altogether. That is, that some of us are simply
less comfortable--and some MARKEDLY so--in person-to-person situations.
But for me, I can gather my thoughts, and set them down here, and boldly
"hob-nob" with all of you (and there are so many illustrious names here; I can't
pick up a magazine in any way related to our profession, and not find the name
of someone who I have gotten to know on the LISTSERV) without feeling the
slightest bit intimidated. Why is that? I don't know. Why is it that I can walk
a hundred feet on top of a narrow brick wall, four feet above the ground, and
not miss a step; but would be TERRIFIED to attempt it if the height were THIRTY
So, Shafat, you are EXACTLY RIGHT when you say that there is no substitute for
face-to-face, physically-present communication. But I have to say, speaking for
myself as a certain "type", that I gain more from participation here than I
would from a regular, monthly attendance at organizational meetings.
However, it cannot be ignored, the fact that as Dennis says, the perceptions of
OTHERS will always be such that you can only help yourself to a limited extent,
by remaining so "aloof" as that.