No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior

By Joshua Meyrowitz | Go to book overview

1

Introduction
Behavior in Its Place

When I was a college student in the late 1960s, I spent one three-month summer vacation in Europe. I had a wide range of new and exciting experiences, and when I returned home, I began to share these with my friends, family, and other people I knew. But I did not give everyone I spoke to exactly the same account of my trip. My parents, for example, heard about the safe and clean hotels in which I stayed and about how the trip had made me less of a picky eater. In contrast, my friends heard an account filled with danger, adventure, and a little romance. My professors heard about the "educational" aspects of my trip: visits to museums, cathedrals, historical sites, and observations of cross-cultural differences in behavior. Each of my many "audiences" heard a different account.

The stories of my trip varied not only in content, but also in style. There were varying numbers of slang words, different grammatical constructions, and different pronunciations. The pace of my delivery, body posture, facial expressions, and hand gestures were different in each situation. Each description had its own unique mix of earnestness and flippancy. My friends, for example, heard a speech filled with "sloppy speech" and sarcasm.

Did I "lie" to any of these people? Not really. But I told them different truths. I did what most of us do in everyday interaction: I highlighted certain aspects of my personality and experience and concealed others.

At the time of my trip, I was not even aware of this variable feature of my behavior. Like most people, I thought of myself as a unified "me" who always behaved in roughly the same way. I focused, as I now realize, only on what was constant in my behavior across situations. I concentrated on my choices within a given situation, rather than on the overall constraints. I thought of my range of possible comments in a seminar, for

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