The world is becoming ever more asynchronous. We do many things together, but this has become increasingly likely to be done at arms length. Face to face meetings have become less likely. Even worse, instead of talking on the phone, an email often suffices. Everything has become asynchronous. Truth be told, we probably like it this way!
There are examples everywhere. Instead of playing cards by sitting around a table, we now play internet poker. The same is true of chess, which is not only online but asynchronous, yours truly being a shining example of succumbing to this phenomenon. Instead of the phone, we send emails. Even TV watching, which used to be a joint family past time is now relegated to individual laptops in separate rooms. Instead of the entire nation watching a TV program at the same time, DVR technology has ensured that we all watch it on our own time. Even sports is watched with time delay in so many locations.
But making it convenient to consume entertainment has made it inconvenient for us to spend time together. We are all running to complete the ingestion of content, leaving little time for blank moments when we might spontaneously interact with each other. Is there no way out of this mess?
Here are some ways to fight this, for in this case the trend is not your friend.
- Consume less media. Most media consumption is now asynchronous and done independently of others. We do not watch the news together, not even sports. So just consume less of it. That goes directly to curtailing asynchronous consumption of media. Watch as much live as possible, with someone else. News and sports are ideally suited to this approach.
- Stop recording. It isn’t that hard. Just get rid of the DVR. This will also help in reducing the vast amounts of time spent on TV. It will also help you do just one thing at a time. I began taking my ipod along on a walk to listen to podcasts, and as a result stopped looking around and enjoying nature. I just missed out on the peaceful quiet on my night walks, and I did not realize how much I had enjoyed it till I stopped taking the ipod with me.
- Switch of all cell phones, computers, and singular distractions after some specific time each evening. This really works. My reading went up three-fold once I took this step. And my sleep was much better. There is plenty of evidence that imperceptibly flickering screens can mess up sleep for several hours. After switching off screens, I was not sleeping much more, but my sleep was of much better quality.
- Produce something every day in place of consumption. Instead of only reading, write something, and I do not mean emails. Responding to emails is not “producing” anything, and it does not bring deep satisfaction. But writing, even something trivial like a blog post, feels really good.
- Play team sports, and i don’t mean MPOG (multi player online games). Getting exercise this way is much better than the isolating act of going to the gym and pounding a treadmill alone. There is so much more stimulation getting exercise in groups. Even just hiking can be so much more than just an exercise in exercise. Do things with your hands where community is required, for example gardening clubs.
- Join a few meet up groups. Meetups are cool, new phenomena where interest groups organize get-togethers using web technology. The meetings are in person and synchronous.
Synchronicity is about community, and community is very important. However, we seem to be slipping into a world of asynchronicity. The good news is that this problem is beatable, one person at a time. As everyone, one by one, starts engaging in synchronous activity, we unwind asychronicity rapidly, because when people do things together, a network builds rapidly, and network effects rebuild synchronicity.