Coffee Shop Integrity on the Internet

What if thought of social media like a chat in a coffee shop?

Let’s say you and I decided to get together for coffee. We set aside an hour at a specific place to meet.

During this conversation I hope to hear and share in your recent, personal experiences. I want to know how you are seeing and feeling the world around you.

But if we vomit every single detail of our lives on each other — that is: what we ate for breakfast; the latest app we installed on our iPhone; our highest score on a mobile game; or detailed every item of our personal schedule since the last time we chatted — we would surely not get around to discussing the deeper nuances of what life has been teaching us. We’d be so hard pressed to squeeze in a play-by-play commentary of our daily doings we might risk being too distracted by minutiae to discuss what we have actually learned and interpreted from our activities.

Don’t get me wrong: I definitely crave bouts of healthy superficiality in dialogue as much as the next guy. There is always a time to talk about the most superfluous and inconsequential things, however we define them. But our relationship needs something more — beyond listening to the other person’s coffee order preferences — to grow as a thing of friendship.

What if we used a coffee shop conversation as a “value benchmark” for our social media quips and contributions?

Herein lies an interesting filter through which to pass every status update/post/tweet/submission: “If I was sitting and having coffee with these friends right now, would we actually bother talking about this? Does it matter?” If it doesn’t matter enough to warrant thoughtful, reflective conversation, then what value does it hold, exactly?

I have absolutely zero agenda to suggest some kind of moral code for social media use, but I have a personal commitment to pursue this kind of “coffee shop integrity” in what I put online: whatever I share on the Internet needs to be meaningful enough2 to be the topic of a thoughtful coffee shop conversation too.

Put simply: if I wouldn’t chat about it with my friends in person, why in the world would I broadcast it to the whole TCP/IP universe?

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