JUNE 2018 • 5
EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK • ELVA K. ÖSTERREICH
Remaining conscious of our human roots
he other day friend and fellow editor Duane Barbati told me the world is becoming tribal. I think what he meant is that people, rather than identifying and gathering in family or neighborhood groups, are moving toward banding in broader but like-minded fashions. The migration is to connect entirely with other people who believe what you believe, behave like you behave and think what you think. Certainly, this is not new, in terms of friends groups, people are drawn to those they have the most in common with and can talk comfortably about the things they care about. This is human nature. But the worldwide connections forming between those who are similar is unprecedented. And with the drawing together of “types,” it becomes easier to see only what you want to see. From people who come together on special-needs animals but stop seeing human tragedies, to those with political agendas who are experts on manipulation, tribes are becoming more prevalent. The double-edged sword of communication around the world links people to one another in ways we sometimes don’t see outright. Tribal marketing has become the way to focus businesses on social media patterns. Neil Davey, editor of the social media platform mycustomer.com, sees the
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Getting together, 9-10 year old boys of the Yao tribe in Malawi participating in circumcision and initiation rites. (Photo by Steve Evans courtesy of WickiCommons)
internet as “tribal behavior that has now stepped from the pages of sociological textbooks into the real world” (2009). My first encounter with the word “tribe” in its current context is because my niece, Sage, started using it as a term for her friends, her companions, like-minded coworkers and so forth. It made sense to me; in my mind, I could see Sage and her friends, who are scattered across the country, as a tribal entity. It was a good connection, a way to be part and apart at the same time. But does social media tribalism contribute to intolerance? Does friendship fail more at a local lev-
el because people have become so drawn to the like-minded that relationships fracture. Tranquilbuzz Coffee Shop owner Dale Rucklos reminded me of the fracturing that occurred during the last presidential election which pitted friend against friend because of political party and who one was voting for. On Facebook, the rash of “unfriending” simply because of party politics and disagreements was massive. People who would cheerfully sit at the table, chatting and drinking coffee together suddenly walked past one another in social settings. The natural mingling and discussions of those who were
once face-to-face friends with different opinions began disintegrating. This disintegration may be destroying some people’s capacity to see things from other points of view, to have reasonable discussions about the world and what direction things are going, to learn about differing views. I am not attacking Facebook or other social media, I think there is a vital role those things play in our lives. Recently I asked, on my Facebook page, what Facebook means to my friends. The answers were overwhelmingly positive – about keeping in touch, connecting with friends and family across the world and even a way to net-
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Postcards from the Edge
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Elva K Österreich is editor of Desert Exposure and would love to meet Desert Exposure readers during her office hours
work with people in the same profession, namely teachers. “I love that I can keep in contact with my family members who are far away, find ones that I haven’t connected with in years, and connect with some of my past clients as well,” was the response from my real estate agent. “It means staying in touch with friends and family thousands of miles away at times, a place to vent, a place to learn, a place to grow and a place to create memories,” said another friend. And a longtime friend is now retired from teaching and has lived in Indonesia for many years, Bruce wrote: “It means I can keep in touch with teachers, and especially, former students; most of us teachers always wonder about how the kids we taught turn out! Facebook helps a lot on this. Also, helps me to keep in contact with longtime friends, like you.” So, it is clear to me that part of the vital social media role is a double-edged sword, both connecting and divisive. There is something superficial about distant, typed conversations that we need to be conscious of, but also something gratifying in knowing how those old friends have lived and learned over time. We just must remind ourselves that nothing replaces face-to-face interaction. As human beings, we have to see and react to living faces and exchange and bounce our opinions off each other. It’s how we learn best.
in Silver City on Thursday, June 21 at the Tranquil Buzz Coffee House, located at the corner of Yankie and Texas streets. If that is not a good time, Elva will be glad to arrange another day to meet and you can always reach her at editor@desertexposure. com or by cell phone at 575443-4408.