I saw a group dynamic interaction that amused and puzzled me this morning, which I felt like sharing.
I joined some people for a “coffee klatch” this morning; the hostess is someone I know from about a year ago and had fallen out of touch with, so I decided to show up and catch up. As is often the case with these events, a number of the attendees showed up with their laptops, taking advantage of the coffeeshop’s free wifi in the midst of conversations and chit-chat.
A new person came in, and I jokingly said, “Where’s your laptop? You didn’t get the memo to bring yours?” Apparently, this was the wrong joke to make. She immediately frowned and went into a minor rant about how rude it was that people brought laptops to these events, and they kill conversation, and she just didn’t understand what people were thinking, being so inconsiderate!
Oookay, so I pushed a button there. Thankfully, I hadn’t brought my laptop with me today, so in her eyes I wasn’t included as “one of them” (though I so very much am). I stepped away for a bit to get some coffee and to ponder my reaction and a reasonable response. My first thought was, “Hmm, so bringing a laptop to a klatch is rude, but immediately joining a group and complaining about how rude everyone else is, that’s fine. Alrighty then.”
My other observation was that I hadn’t noticed the laptops stifling conversation. It’s not like people were head-down clacking at the keyboard ignoring the group. Instead they were bringing up photos of things they wanted to show, looking up articles on wikipedia to share information about a particular topic being discussed, looking up the event calendar to tell people about upcoming gatherings. To me, the computers felt like definite accessories to the conversation, not impediments.
Pondering all this, I got my coffee and returned to the table… to find the entire group in conversation… except for the ranter… who was quietly ignoring the group while she read her newspaper. I considered trying to point out the obvious, and decided to let it go.