Social Meetings and New Ideas

This Sunday I heard in a podcast a researcher telling the story of how they started a research institute from a meeting with friends over Pizza.

That got me thinking how we (and by “we”, I mean “I”, but I suspect that I’m not alone in this), how we have less social meetings these days, and how this feels like an obstacle for serendipitous encounters and ideas with other people. Not only that, these social and chance meetings were opportunities to strengthen social ties, making relationships with colleagues less “professional”, and helping us see people less as resources and more as, well, people.

To be more concrete, this year I started (or in one case, tried to start), two academic groups, and I feel that the fact that we never actually talk to each other except when we really need to get something done to be a negative, since this also means that there is little chance for us to be together when a new idea springs into being.

Of course, this problem has increased greatly with the COVID pandemic in the last two years. Even though Japan has relied only on self-imposed social distancing and no formal lock-downs, people still greatly reduced their social outings (at least in my experience).

That said, I think this is an ongoing process, and one much older than the pandemic. The other day I saw a thread on reddit complaining about people who opened DMs with “Hello”. I can absolutely understand the feeling, although I also feel that these “useless” messages could be a (clumsy) way that people use to try some sort of “social oil” in their communications.

Anyway I do feel the need to be more more conscious to my social life.

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