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It all happened so quickly, and we haven’t even really begun.

Our interconnectedness through Social Media has mirrored a growing disconnect with our immediate environment. Faces bathed in a familiar blue glow are no longer the exception. Jokes about someone Tweeting someone else’s Facebook status are more than a passing meme.

It should be easier than ever to stay in touch with people. It should be more efficient, and we should be able to spread our ideas more effectively. But do we?

We have known for a long time that our primary means of communication are non-verbal. The importance of body language and eye contact in establishing trust and understanding are immeasurable. This is where communication begins.

Digital media does away with this. Technology attempts to make up the difference, but will this gap ever close? Do we want it to?

There is another aspect of social interaction that technology has recognized and helped encourage for a long time: Serendipity.

NetFlix, Amazon, and Facebook have attempted to quantify, predict, and promote serendipity. If you like this movie, we can guess with a fair level of certainty that you’ll also like this movie. Or product. Or friend of a friend. We’ll casually suggest it to you and you’re left feeling pleasantly, gratefully surprised.

But real serendipity always goes beyond surprise, approaching astonishment. You haven’t seen someone and have hardly thought about them for over ten years. Suddenly you see them and you experience a waterfall of emotions in an instant. Long absence paired with the body language and eye contact inherent in a face-to-face meeting… that’s serendipity.

We simply cannot replicate this experience by secluding ourselves behind screens while we bang away on our keyboards thousands of miles away from one another. Be close to people, be confident, introduce yourself, smile with your entire face and lighten up. We were meant to be social, not virtual.

That’s why attendance at live events – sports, music, and otherwise –  continues to grow, despite the proliferation of in-home options. You’re not just seeing the game, and you’re not just feeling the pulse of the bass. You’re there to witness everything, just as the performers are there to be fueled by your energy. Even if Virtual Reality headsets could conjure up the sights, sounds, and smells of a live sporting event, would you still strap one on if you knew no one was there? To be surrounded on all sides by a spontaneous, improvised community… topped off by the possibility of serendipity… that’s where reality turns into humanity.

We cannot rely on technology to create serendipity in everyday life. Serendipity is not a matter of chance, but only the sum total of the number of times we’ve been completely aware of our surroundings. If it might happen, it’s a certainty. If you leave it up to algorithms, forget it.

Make a gift of yourself. Be present.

 

It’s more fun to make a recipe together, to share the experience with someone you love. But for some special foods, it’s essential. Enjoy this recipe for tamales from Mexico in my Kitchen.