Monthly Archives: March 2009

A District of Networkers & Passionate Idealists

Last night I went to a professional event where I was asked if I wanted to do the “DC handshake”. No, non-DC-ites, this is not as cool as it seems.  The DC handshake is simply an exchange of business cards. But I think the whole thing is very representative of this city.

DC is really the District of Contacts. It’s all about who you know and, in turn, who they know. I know ‘networking’ as a whole has become a craze lately, but here, networking has always been a necessity and a way of life.

I have business cards in the office, at home, in my everyday purse, in my travel bag… I find them in odd corners of my apartment, in between my work papers. And it’s like this because you never know who you’ll meet.

Another observation:

A few weeks ago I was at an event where an attendee mentioned her frustration that the first thing she is asked when meeting someone new is: “So, what do you do?”. She finds it to be pompus and superficial.

I countered that I really enjoy it. In my six months here in the District, one of the things that I have come to love most about this city is that (almost) everyone here is here doing something they are truly passionate about. DC is a place of innovation, progress, and advocacy.  I love meeting people who are here to make a difference in the world.

Many my age are stumbling their way through life (nothing wrong with that!) but I’ve found that my contemporaries who live in the District have, for the most part, come here with a purpose.  It’s refreshing — and gives me hope for my generation’s future — to be somewhere where discussing ideology and politics and theories and similar topics in casual conversations is the norm.

Letting Loose

I’ve always been mature for my age. Sometimes I think it’s because I’m the first-born as well as a first-generation American. But, really, I think I’m just inherently an old soul.

When I look back on my college years my regrets are different than those of my peers. I wish I had gone to fewer classes, worried less about my coursework. I wish I had really appreciated the freedom and ability to expirement that the college environment allows. And that’s not to say that I focused solely on the academics – I was in a sorority, I took part in a variety of other extracurricular activities, I went out six nights a week… But I feel like I never really let loose, let myself lose control, let myself go.

And now that I’m out of that phase and very “in my twenties”, I wonder if in another few years, I’ll look back at this time in my life and wonder why I wasn’t more irresponsible. Should I be out partying during the week? What’s it like to meet a man in a bar and take him home? As much as college was a time of very few responsibilities, twenty somethings have some responsiblities – but really only for oneself – with the added bonus of overall financial freedom.

Are these the best years of my life? And, if so, shouldn’t I be out living the Sex and the City life and sowing my outs before it’s time to really settle down?

But, I guess in the end, it all comes down to the fact that doing that wouldn’t be true to who I am. And, thinking about this now, there’s a difference between not being crazy and being boring. So the future me will just have to remember (and I now have to remember when I think back to college) that “letting loose” would not have provided me the fullfillment I seek.

The Changing of Human Society

On Tuesday, I attended a discussion hosted by Media Future Now (at Google’s DC headquarters!) that focused on the diversity (or lack thereof) in print and broadcast journalism.

The conversation covered a large array of topics including the inability of the newsroom to fulfill its original purpose of serving the community, the difficulty for smaller organizations to attract and keep diverse talent and the necessity to understand a person’s being deeper than just demographic categories.

However, one of the most interesting peripheral points that was made is how the decline of the newspaper (and the rise of online news) will change our society as a whole.

One of the internet’s biggest advantages – the ability to cater to niche markets and audiences – is also potentially one of its greatest dangers.

When people received their news through newspapers, it was much more likely that they would wander and read articles in sections other than those in which they were interested. (For example, even if they were primarily a Business section reader, they would read the Arts section as well.) 

Now, because it’s possible to completely customize the news experiences online — by only reading entirely Business-focused publications or searching specifically for Business articles, for instance — we settle into exploring only the familiar.

This has astronomically dangerous implications for our society as the barrier to receive information has increased. (You need to actively seek out information which may not be readily available through these narrow information streams.)

The same scenario has already played out with the advent of cable television. When individuals could only receive their TV through three major networks, they were very likely to end up watching programs that they may have not otherwise actively sought out (but just happened to be on at the time). Now, with cable programming — and DVRs! — it’s very easy to ONLY watch SPECIFICALLY those shows that we are interested in.

The issue is that there’s something to be said about the loss of receving unintentional information. I may really enjoy the History Channel, but if I’ve never stumpled across it and taken the time to see if I like it, that’s a lost opportunity for personal enhancement – and at an aggregate level, a lost opportunity for society as a whole.

Progress, both individually and collectively, can’t take place if we stop learning. And the increased ability to block (or simply not actively look for) additional information through modern technology makes me wonder how our society will develop in the future…

(The whole thing would make for a great Vonnegut story, wouldn’t it?)