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Two feet in front of your face, 2000 miles away

Will Meeting IRL Matter?

There’s definitely something to think about here: How many people do you communicate with on a daily basis without actually seeing them in person? What’s your relationship like? How far away are you?

It seems trivial that more and more people are connected online everyday. Yet, we have a long way to go — with approximately two-thirds of the world still pre-Internet.1 With it taking over 30 years for around 2.3 billion to connect, getting another two-thirds is likely to be much faster due to the acceleration and adoption of technology. As these new users come online, there are many interactions for them to participate in, including becoming more social.

Humans are social animals. And with your social graph growing, no surprise, you have a greater potential to be social. Across Facebook’s social technologies: Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, there are 2 billion monthly active users.2 Almost the entire connected world in one platform in case you are counting.3

But it’s not just Facebook where people are connecting at scale. People connect across almost every industry and niche on the web. Tinderers swipe more than a billion times per day, trying to find love, hookup, or some other form of affection.4 Tinder didn’t exist 24 months ago, yet people have flocked to connect through it. Products, like Slack, allow distributed teams to work all across the globe. Twitch brings 45 million gamers together, geeking out about video games.5 People exchange 400 million snaps on Snapchat per day.6

While people are meeting more and more often with an increasing amount of people than ever before, does this effect relationship quality? Quantitatively, there aren’t numbers to back this up yet — there haven’t been comprehensive studies on these social interactions. But qualitatively, you can feel it.

Think about how you feel when you are meeting a date for the first time:

Do the same butterflies in the pit of your stomach exist over Tinder?

You cannot pick up on social cues: a nervous smile, long role of the eyes, or the moment when you both just giggle because no one has any idea what to say. And this isn’t just inherent to Tinder. It’s baked into Slack meetings, WhatsApp messages, Snapchat stories—all of them—where you cannot truly interact in real time, like you could if the other person is actually two feet in front of your face.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It simply means that proximity doesn’t matter as much as it used to when meeting someone. You could be looking at someone on your phone, who is looking at you from the other end. Maybe he or she is 2,000 miles away, and both of you can still communicate. Definitely a boon for us as social animals.

Even though it seems like we are trending towards a future where people maintain a large number of relationships exclusively online, the most meaningful ones will most likely always include a non-virtual hug, kiss, high-five, or whatever else you do with your loved ones.

And those can only happen IRL (so far).


Notes