This was beautifully stated. While it is true that I spoke from a logistics
point of view to make my point to the many who are physically unable to
participate, I am (and Shafat knows this of me) very much as you have
described yourself - more comfortable in my own environment and much less at
ease in the company of others.
It took a lot from one particular engineer in 1987 who dragged me to a
Hazardous Building committee meeting simply because I did not then and still
do not leave the home/office unless it is for a project or a family affair.
The discomfort level is so intense that I will be physically ill until I am
underway and out.
This "virtual" persona as it is described, allows me to voice my strong
convictions and opinions with stuttering, stammering, or searching endlessly
for the correct word choice.
I can't support my feelings, but I believe strongly that the majority of
engineers - even those who belong to SEA would rather hid behind a mask than
be seen publicly.
However, I don't agree with you about how well you know the other person.
Many of us open ourselves to relating more personal information than we
would at the first contact or social event. In fact, I would say that
although you are not prepared to associate the person to the perception, you
actually know that person better than you would if you spent years on a
committee with them. The problem is finding a comfort level between what we
have learned and the intimidation that presents itself when faced with the
flesh and blood representation of the traits that we feel most comfortable
This is the learning process of how to use the virtual world. Unless we have
created a false personality to deceive the public (or profession) then what
we learn of each other on this list is more to the sole of the real
individual than we might ever discover in professional hand slapping or
You need to trust your instincts. When I finally put a face to a List
member, it is no longer as much as surprise as it was the first time. I have
learned to trust the information that I have learned from the time we have
spent discussing issues and personal subjects.
I think you made the point perfectly, and I think you need to know that you
are not as out of touch as you think you are. You have also proven the
points I have made very well by showing the usefulness of the Virtual tools
to draw those out of their shell who might otherwise isolate themselves from
their professional peers. This is the least painful way to make the
transition and supports the need for adapting to useful tools such as we
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bpolhem(--nospam--at)swbell.net]
Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2001 5:25 PM
Subject: Re: QUERY: What Are The Practical Benefits of Joining An
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
two cents' worth, as to where I think Dennis is coming from. In so doing, I
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
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
of us have corresponded via Internet for example, and then had the
to speak to the person on the phone, and found ourselves slightly surprised
the person's voice? We tend to free-associate our own mental constructs,
that person, who is for all intents and purposes an "abstract" as far as we
concerned, a "personality" including physical attributes, all unconsciously.
But when we speak to them, or (even more striking) meet them in person, it
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
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
That is, there are some persons who are just not as "confident" in a "face
face" setting, but who nevertheless have things to say, ideas to bring
and in short, something to contribute intellectually. But these persons
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
the computer, and remarking to his doggy-friend: "On the internet, nobody
you're a dog."
Now, for some of you that may seem a curious thing. This is because you do
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
in my adult life, CRAVE the contact, and the interaction. They wade into
sorts of groups, shaking hands and slapping backs, making golf dates,
updates on the "wife and kids", and generally doing everything a good
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
ASCE for YEARS. Through that organization, he has made SCORES of contacts in
field (he is in highway and transportation engineering), and it has stood
good stead as he has expanded his career goals to include middle (and
believe, 'upper') management. There is NO ONE this fellow doesn't know that
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
flew to Hong Kong and tried to negotiate a business deal, without knowing
the customs or the Cantonese language. To me, it is intimidating. To him, it
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
ability to participate in SEAINT (or lack thereof), for example, I am
really about a different problem altogether. That is, that some of us are
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
pick up a magazine in any way related to our profession, and not find the
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
a hundred feet on top of a narrow brick wall, four feet above the ground,
not miss a step; but would be TERRIFIED to attempt it if the height were
So, Shafat, you are EXACTLY RIGHT when you say that there is no substitute
face-to-face, physically-present communication. But I have to say, speaking
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
OTHERS will always be such that you can only help yourself to a limited
by remaining so "aloof" as that.