“How to Talk to Strangers” : A French Figures Out

The very American concept of “networking” makes my French soul cry. So Monday afternoon, I decided to attend a workshop at MIT (“How to talk to strangers”), in order to understand it all better — and who knows, maybe start liking it.

In terms of format, I tried something I never did : a first person audio piece. It cost me not to take any pictures, but I did it. The whole thing took me a little more than 4 hours.


Audrey’s Media Diary

How I Lost my Snow Day Trying to Read all the News on the Internet Intro_08

It’s Sunday, outside is 5°, and I won’t go out : perfect day to catch up on the week’s news — or so I thought. Here’s how and what I read/heard/watched while the world was ending, buried under 70 inches of snow.


Opening eyes around 7.30, the first thing I do is check my phone (I know, it’s a bad thing to do). I read a blurry bunch of news notifications that popped on the screen while I slept. I only read the notifications, without opening any of them. This morning, they all describe the terrorist attack that happened in Denmark. This actually can be all that I do to remain informed on a busy day : seeing the world only through media notifications, trusting my apps to tell me only what’s essential, and never reading anything further. But it won’t be enough for a snow storm day, locked inside.



I bother reaching for my glasses and my iPad, and let myself drift from link to link, starting with e-mail newsletters (Medium and LeMonde.fr). But Facebook pops up on the screen without me even thinking, and transforms my quest for news by taking me to a post-Valentine’s day feed. I say to myself that this is a little monochrome and irritating, but I end up reading a bunch of Valentine stuff I had no intent to read for an hour, like a map of the world’s single published on Medium. I emerge from this lukewarm love bath thinking about how I didn’t see anything about the latests event in Copenhagen pop up in my feed. So I finally take a deliberate decision and open The Guardian’s app to read about it. 15 more minutes.



Next to some almond biscuits my partner and I put on the table, ends up a smartphone that shouts what NPR One app’s chooses to tell us about the world this morning. We listen closely when a report on Copenhagen comes up. And later complain about a Valentine’s day story (am I trapped?) we had heard two days before. We just turn the whole thing off when a game show comes up, feeling like we didn’t get the news we came for. And we ask : why did we not just play a podcast instead?



I’m sorry that I have to drag you into this truth about media consumers : they often read you from their bathroom. Unfortunately, I make no exception — and open the NYTNow app when I get there. I always say I love this app because unlike the NYT homepage, it makes choices, and doesn’t flood me with tons of things I might not want to read. I scroll through the “News” section for a while, reading stories and saving a bunch of others “for later” — more stuff from Copenhagen, although the situation is unclear at this point. Then I get to my favorite part of the app : the “Picks” — where the editors have chosen for me what I should read out of the whole Internet. I rarely click through to any content. I just feel good knowing that these things exist.



In an attempt to get some work done, I open my laptop to the hundred Chrome tabs from my last Internet time. Two starred e-mails later, the sound of Facebook pops in my ear. And in a heartbeat, I’m scrolling down my Facebook feed. This time around, I am flooded with the news of the day : snow is everywhere, more snow is coming, when will the snow end? My Tweetdeck is next on my instinctive desktop habits. I open a bunch of tabs, and jump from one content to another : The Guardian, Medium, Vox, Reddit, NYTimes, Quartz, NYMag… 90% of topics are about the U.S., and all contents are in English — which may seem weird for a French journalist, now that I think about it. I read a lot of stuff but the only thing that really strikes me is the Obama interview Vox did : good format, great interview.



At night, I find the time to read the choices I’ve actually made on the whole Internet: the articles I’ve saved in Pocket, the read-it-letter app. But while I dwell into reading a bunch of my saved contents, this media diary makes me self-conscious. What is it that I actually choose to “save to read later”? First is an obvious one : (too) long pieces that I’m afraid I will never read. Second is a little less obvious : bookmarking. Things that I actually already read/watched, but wanted to keep somewhere. They’re coming from my favorite sources : Vox, NYT, Quartz, The Guardian, Le Monde, etc. No specific topic surfaces, and I feel like, once more, this saved content is still very much a result of my serendipity habits, rather than the reflection of my own interests.