Digital Coffee Shop
Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 6/9/2006
I grew up in a rural community, so I knew about coffee shops long before Starbucks became popular. A coffee shop wasn’t a place where you could go and pay an outrageously high price for a cup of coffee that would cost less then ten cents if you made it at home. The local coffee shop was one of the places where a person could go to find out what was happening in the world. There were always a few people who would show up every day to drink a cup of coffee and maybe eat breakfast, but the main reason they were there was to talk. There were several of these coffee shops scattered among the small towns in the area. There were also similar places, such as the barber shop where men would sit around and talk while they waited their turn to get their hair trimmed. One had to be careful what one listened to because part of what was said was just rumor or a very biased opinion, but if those things were filtered out one could learn a great deal about farming, fishing, world news and the history of the area.
Modern technology has made many things more convenient. Almost anything that used to require a trip to town now can be done on the internet. Almost anything can be purchased over the internet. Rather than asking a friend how to do something, we can now look it up on the internet, because there is probably someone who has done it and wants to brag about it. Even the local coffee shop is being replaced by the internet. Instead of driving over to the coffee shop and sitting down with the other guys who have nothing better to do, we can now go to a chat room or a forum.
The conversations that take place in these places are very similar to the ones that might take place in a local coffee shop, but it just isn’t the same. In a coffee shop people communicate because they happen to be in the same place at the same time. On the internet, people communicate because they wish to discuss similar subjects. In a coffee shop people receive feedback that is sufficient to let him know when something has affected the other person. On the internet the line of communication may be severed before the person who angered the other even realizes that he as offended the other person. In a coffee shop the tone of voice and facial expression helps to communicate the good intentions of the speaker even when his words do not. On the internet there is no good way to replicate this ability.
One way that many people try to express their intentions is through the use of strings of characters intended to look like faces. A person might express sarcasm like this: “I know you want to mow your mother-in-law’s yard. :)” It is equivalent to saying, “I’m only joking,” in a spoken conversation. In regular conversation it is irritating. On the internet the fact that some people are so sensitive that it is necessary is very irritating. Still it is interesting what one can do if he just ends a sentence with a smiley. A person might mention that the other person used the wrong word and the other person will be offended, but if he says something like “I’ve seen your mother and not only is she fat, but she smells like a tub of lard. :)” and all be well with the world.
It is great that we can communicate with people having similar interests from places all over the world at very little expense, but it is not so good that we are losing our desire to have face to face contact with other people outside of our family. The internet makes it possible for people we have never met to know more about us than the people we meet on a regular basis.
Editor's Note: The author of this article has written a book titled Church Website Design.