Saturday, April 12, 2008

The game theory approach to staying in touch

Staying in touch with old friends of mine has long since been a conundrum. I am infamously bad at articulating myself on the phone. People tell me that they can't understand what I say. Although I am ardently working on my pronunciation, it doesn't come easily.

Moreover, if you put yourself out there in other mediums, you are seen as a little bit cocky. I truly cannot tell you how many times I have been told or had it inferred that writing a blog is narcissistic. Some people think that the internet is a bad thing because it replaces talking on the phone. I could not possibly disagree more.

The problem is that when you call somebody on the phone, a game-theoretic model emerges where both individuals want to extract information, but are faced with difficulties, namely:

1) If you just start spilling out information about yourself (with the expectation that your partner will later reciprocate), you are viewed as self-centered.

2) If you start asking questions, they often will not answer in depth because of fear #1, and the conversation may seem like an interrogation.

3) People often forget what they wanted to say or need a recap of what is going on in the other person's life, which is inefficient. And don't tell me that this inefficiency is a central part of life. I'd prefer to discuss interesting things than recap details that are not of tremendous importance any day.

Now, if people recognized these difficulties and performed what economists refer to as "collusion" to solve them, things would go much more smoothly. But many people try to convince themselves that talking on the phone is the most natural thing in the world, which simply causes more confusion when the conversation is sidetracked.

Listen, it's not like I'm nervous about talking on the phone. As I said recently, I don't desire anything anyways. But don't tell me that having a blog replaces talking on the phone, when clearly it supplements the conversation tremendously.