2 min read

The Dichotomy of Connection: A Tale from the Conference Floors of San Japan

As I navigated through the maze of people and panels at the San Japan conference in San Antonio, Texas, an event teeming with over 25,000 attendees, two overarching themes struck me: the sheer thirst for human connection and the unanticipated role that technology (or the lack thereof) played in shaping those interactions.

The Rekindled Flame of Human Connection

We find ourselves in an era punctuated by virtual meetings and digital handshakes. The COVID-19 pandemic stretched the fabric of human connection to its limits, compelling us to adjust to Zoom calls and Slack messages. But what became evident at San Japan was the vacuum that only real-life interactions can fill. An underlying sense of joy permeated the crowd—joy at the shared fandoms, the mutual respect, and the sheer electricity of being part of a collective experience. There was a collective realization: we hadn't just missed this; we needed this.

When Bad Internet Makes Good Memories

Counterintuitively, it was the failure of technology—specifically, the conference's subpar internet connectivity—that accentuated this human connection. Far from being glued to their screens, attendees engaged in actual conversations, exchanging contact details the old-fashioned way. In this environment, not just utility but necessity drove innovation: people found ways to jot down notes, save contacts for later communication, and even snap pictures of social handles for future reference. The irony was rich: the bad internet was a good thing, propelling us into a temporary digital detox that highlighted the primacy of face-to-face interactions.

Rethinking Notifications: The Embarrassment Clause

The conference wasn't entirely free from technology-induced hiccups. At unexpected moments, cellular towers decided to reconnect, triggering a cacophony of ringtones and notifications across the panel rooms. It was amusing but also socially awkward. This led me to ponder on a future where we could control our audible digital footprints better. AirPods and other Bluetooth headsets are already ubiquitous; can we not invent a communication system that allows discreet notifications, only audible to the user?

Consider inconspicuous ringtones: soft, non-intrusive sounds like a pen clicking or a keyboard tapping. This opens up a market for a new class of software applications that not only respects the shared physical space but also leverages existing technology in an elegant manner.


As we emerge from an era of virtual everything into a future that still values physical presence, the way we integrate technology into these settings will shape the quality of our interactions. Whether it's harnessing bad connectivity to foster real conversations or innovating on the ringtone front, opportunities abound for those willing to think outside the smartphone.

So, as I pack up my notes and head to my next destination, the revelations from San Japan stay with me, providing food for thought on how we can better navigate the intersection of technology and human connection in the post-pandemic world. Until we meet again, whether in cyberspace or a crowded conference hall, I look forward to the discussions that lie ahead.

For those interested in diving deeper into the future of technology and its implications, my WTF Journal serves as a repository of thoughts and questions that can guide your exploration. After all, the future is not something to predict; it's something to be understood.