face time sells more albums than Face Time

When Diana Ross left the Supremes, there were a lot of expectations around her debut solo album. The (music) recording world is a world that measures success in sales. Diana Ross didn’t just have to release an album that was thought to be great music (which is subjective anyway); she had to release an album that sold. Even with unquestionable talent, an established name and marketing behind her, Ms. Ross needed more to ensure her music made it into millions of homes. She needed songs that would resonate with her audience.

Which song resonated with the greatest number of   people? Diana’s hit single (which peaked as #1 on the   Billboard’s top 200 chart), a cover by Ashford and Simpson, went something like this:

If you need me, call me

No matter where you are

No matter how far

Just call my name

I’ll be there in a hurry

On that you can depend and never worry

Written by Ashford and Simpson in 1966, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, had everyone singing along. Written today, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, might sound more like:

texters If you need me, call me

No matter where you are

No matter how far

Just text my cell

I’ll Face Time in a hurry

On that you can depend and never worry

Now, I love video chat. Even though I’m no cyber junkie, I freely admit that video chat has been an invaluable tool in my profession and an equal, if not greater, asset in my personal life. I’m not exclusive to any portal, though to date, I’ve be on Skype the most. In fact, only recently, did I experience my first Face Time, which gave me the chance to visit with a friend of mine even though she lives in another country and was out for the day, equipped with only her iPhone. Seeing her was a great relief because recently, she told me that her cancer had returned and seeing how well she looked was more of a comfort than just hearing her cheery voice.

But Face Time is not the same as face time.

Looking at both sets of lyrics, do you think the original and my updated version evoke the same feeling? I don’t. And I don’t think Diana (nor Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell , who recorded it first less than four years earlier) would have sold nearly as many records with today’s lyrics either. When I read or hear the original lyrics, I’m uplifted by the thought of being supported or supporting someone I care about in-person.

chat appsIf I could have actually been face-to-face with my friend the  other morning,
I would have jumped at the chance. Skype,  Face Time and all similar platforms, as amazing and fabulous  as they are,  are still my second choice.
If you ask a hundred  people at  random, they would probably tell you the same  thing.

In 2009, Forbes magazine did just that, only they targeted the workplace instead of trolling the streets. One of their Insights studies surveyed 760 business executives, 48% of whom were either owners or c-level executives. Respondents were asked to choose the meeting method that was most conducive to fostering a certain business action or outcome. Turns out that the respondents gave face-to-face meetings as their preference for such objectives, claiming the in-person format are best for persuasion (91%), leadership (87%), engagement (86%), accountability (79%), and decision-making (82%).

But what about the next generation? Do they care more for avatars or actual people?

Well even Vishal Singh, who was 17 years old at the time he was interviewed for the NYT article, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction,” revealed a surprising preference.   Singh, who, like many of his contemporaries, routinely eschewed completing his homework in favor of spending most of his waking hours performing multiple tasks simultaneously on his computer said, “I’ll always take one great teacher in a cave over a dozen (high-tech teaching displays) Smart Boards.”

Go Vishal.

So while young and seasoned adults alike claim to prefer the persons in their lives to be in-person, what do our actions say? I can no longer count the number of people I see sitting across from each other in restaurants, only to ignore each other while nose deep in their oh-so-smartphones engaging in what I lovingly call “eSpeak.”

eSpeak is a term I coined for all electronic communication—which is so much of our communication these days. Why is eSpeak on the rise? We’re all “so busy” … or so enthralled with our devices, or both.

Everyday, I see a steady decline in live interactions between people. I had to ask myself, “Is it just me?”

Sharon Jayson didn’t think so. She did her own research and looked around to prepare for her article in USA Today. The result? She gave 2010 the dubious title of:

“The year we stopped talking to one another.”

Well if 2010 was the year we stopped talking to one another, where does that leave us today?

What I want to know is, deep down, do we really want Face Time to replace face time?

 Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand

Make this world a better place…If you can

Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand

Make this world a better place…If you can

On the very same debut album for Diana Ross, writers Ashford and Simpson penned what would become a huge hit: Reach out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The gospel-influenced ballad is filled with powerful images of the impact we can have on each other by simply being there in-person.

Are those lyrics relevant in today’s world?

Twice a week I teach a class on the upper west side. Many of my regulars tend to give me a heads up about being away for a while. One such woman, a passionate and upbeat individual, who usually couldn’t wait to gush about an amazing exhibition or performance she’d seen, had been noticeably absent for months without warning. When she returned to class, she quietly participated and came up to thank me afterwards. I told her how happy I was to see her and asked how she was doing. It quickly became clear that the past few months had been very difficult. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes about what was going on in her life. I squeezed her arm, rubbed my hand on her back, and most of all, was in the room with her. While she told me how much my response meant to her, I could tell just by being there with her. I challenge you to find a letter “o” of any font style or size that is as gratifying as a hug, regardless if you are the giver or the receiver.

While I think having an outlet and someone to listen to without any strings attached would have been helpful to her even if our conversation had been virtual, there was something undeniably soothing for my student and nourishing for both of us that we had a chance to connect in person. Reaching out and touching her hand did, indeed, make the world a better place for both of us.

So what is your choice—Face Time or face time? Don’t let the capital letters fool you.

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