Why We Connect

Posted on November 28, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

STOP: Play this song in the background while you read this post http://bit.ly/i3GYea

What is connection?  Connection is an absence of solitude.  It is a recognition, of varying depths, that we are not in this alone.  It is not just a reminder that we can interact with others, but also a reminder that we are the same.  That there is someone else out there who is going through this mind blowing experience of being human, and somehow the fact that this bizarre array of emotions and thoughts and events and actions is not completely unique gives us comfort, that we are somehow doing it right, or that we are normal, or at least that we can handle the next unpredictable turn that is upon us, because the guy to our right, or the person across the street, or our friend, or our mother, has experienced some aspect of our future and lived to breath another breath.

In connection comes a communication of experience that helps us to see where we overlap with the rest of the world.  The closer our connection to another human being, the more of their experience we are able to observe, at closer range, with less filters.  For most people family is the tightest connection we experience to other human beings.  We are able to check the scariest parts of our experience against those of our family.  We gain exposure to issues of health, emotional distress, financial pressure, and even mortality, all up close and personal because these tight connections communicate their own experience to us fully and without fear of judgment or disconnection.

One connective sphere out from family we have friends, who share a subset of their own experience, and remind us that we all are searching for love and success, that we all make bad decisions and have to pay for them, that it feels great to win a basketball game, and that watching a family member die can affect our professional performance.  They are a barometer that communicates not only their experience, but an analysis of their experience that is incremental, educational, and softening to our own jarring life.

Push out further, and we enter the realm of loose ties and connections.  This sphere can be approximated by our 500 Facebook connections, or even our 10,000 friends of friends.  Our connection to these people is distant enough that their experience is heavily filtered when communicated to us. We only see the representation of them that they wish to project to the external world, but we are close enough that we ingest it repeatedly through sheer proximity.  Although the communication is filtered, through repeated exposure we are still able to relate and analyze their experience relative to our own.  We see what they wear, how they move, who they move with, and the various other attributes of their external profile, and yet again we are able to find overlap and similarity in these distant behaviors with our own.

Connection keeps us sane when faced with the aspects of our experience that are difficult to understand. “Where the hell did we come from?”  No idea…this started to freak people out, and then religion comes along and institutionalizes a connection to others who are grappling with the same issue.  It is not so much the answer that religion provided, as evidenced by the multitude of beliefs to which people subscribe, but rather, religion provided a recognition of the question that reminded people that they were not alone in this common human challenge.  Imagine if I walked through life believing that I was the only one who was asking the question of human creation, or that I, alone, was grappling with the concept of God.  That would be maddening, alienating, and potentially debilitating.

One of the oldest forms of connection that I can think of is our connection to our local community.  Trends of cohabitation and urbanization reflect a recognition that the people who surround us can satisfy much of our connective need.  I share space with people in my neighborhood and experience an extremely lightweight connection that in many ways contributes to my sanity.  I am sitting in this café right now, writing this post, and the girl next to me is studying for a biology exam.  I see the diagram of a heart and the path of blood into and out of it, and am reminded of my own high school education.  I see her gaze away form the page, and we share a common affliction known as “distraction.”  This observation of her is an extremely lightweight connection that reminds me that distraction is normal, and that I do not need to freak out just because I cannot focus for 2 hours at a time.  I understand my own experience through the observation of my neighbor’s.

Various discovery and communication mechanisms have been developed to help people map, discover and strengthen their connection to the different groups I have touched upon in this post.  I believe the local and hyperlocal experience has not been mapped, so we’re going to do it at Hyperpublic.  As much as I hate to use the catch phrase, you could say we are building the “local graph.”

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One Response to “Why We Connect”

RSS Feed for Jordan Cooper's Blog: startups, venture capital, etc… Comments RSS Feed

Very cool post (and song). I really like the idea behind Hyperpublic.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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