Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"People don't connect these days..."

"We live in a world dominated by texting, tweeting, and virtual friendships. People are losing their ability to really communicate and really connect..."
Have you heard this, or some version of it, recently?

I have. Frequently.

I will admit that many of our connections are highly compressed, truncated, and occur, literally, at the speed of light. Such connections can easily become superficial and friendships can be maintained with a much lower investment.

I will even agree that the cost, and thus the value, of face to face communication is much higher than a twitter conversation; energy, emotions, and even spiritual connections tend to travel much better through air than through fiber optics; and we have yet to create an effective digital hug.

But the idea that we are losing the ability or the desire to connect with other humans is a little offensive to me. It implies that my generation is somehow less human because we often choose electronic connections over physical ones. This is simply not true.

We live in a world that allows us to consume and share information at a much higher rate and we have sped up our pace of living accordingly. But utilities like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube do not prove that we prefer more distant or lower-investment connections, it means that we live at a pace that leaves less time for connections...but we are reaching for them anyway.

As I struggled to put this into words, I heard an amazing story on the radio. It is the story of Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir.

Eric Whitacre is a conductor who, in 2010, extended an invitation to singers worldwide to submit video/audio tracks via YouTube of themselves singing different parts to a song he composed. He shared his story at TED 2011 explaining that 185 singers accepted the invitation and one non-singing individual was so moved, that he requested that he be the one to edit the tracks together. The result is Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir: 'Lux Aurumque'. It is breathtaking.

The response to that video was so overwhelmingly positive (it has almost 2,000,000 views and over 13,000 'likes') that Whitacre, again, extended a worldwide invitation to participate in the Virtual Choir 2.0. This time, over 2,000 singers, ages 9 to 60+,  from 58 countries participated. Many people in this choir are not professional singers and will never sing in a "real" choir.

This story is not powerful because it demonstrates a creative way of using the world wide web or even because the composition is so beautiful, but because it shows how people who would have never met under other circumstances, were able to share in the creation of something beautiful.

This could not have existed in another world. 

One woman who sang in the Virtual Choir explains that her only connection to the world is via satellite, yet she is now part of an elite, and now famous, community of people across the globe.

People aren't connecting? You don't think so?

I've embedded the TED video below. It is about 14 minutes long and is well worth your time. The video of the choir singing Whitacre's song "Sleep" premieres on YouTube tomorrow, you can view it on the Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir's YouTube channel.


Here's the newest video: "Sleep"

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