Fredrik Weibull of Winkreative invited me to a herrmiddag, a sort of male bonding event in Stockholm this weekend. I never participated in a herrmiddag so it sounded exotic in an old-worldish way: about a hundred men, dressed in tuxedoes, meet at a luxury hotel from where they get whisked to some unknown location for the evening with no advance information about the particulars of the program.

The destination turned out to be a boat. We circulated in the Stockholm archipelago and the onboard menu consisted of snaps (shots) and skagen (toast). Each shot was preceded by a snapsvisa (drinking song). The Swedes were bellowing from their hearts; I was squinting to follow the lyrics from a sheet someone had thoughtfully administered.

Every once in a while the boat stopped on an island and the chic, increasingly raucous party climbed on the shore for short visits to seaside attractions (an aquarium, a historic telegraph station turned into a restaurant) and more booze, speeches, and singing. After the first couple of shots I had to start pouring water into my cup, stashing the shot glasses behind flower pots and tipping the contents inconspicuously into the water to avoid ending up in the hospital for a stomach hosing.

Although it’s not my regular scene I think I now understand better why these kind of collective drinking binges work. I got to talk with almost everyone during the evening: doctors, entrepreneurs, students, lawyers. Guys who’d otherwise never meet exchanged frank accounts of their professional and personal lives and worldviews.

On the plane back the experience got me thinking about how differently people still interact in the real world and online. It’s easier to be candid online when you have a fake identity – but the feeling of genuinity just isn’t there when nobody can trust the other person’s really who they claim to be in flesh and blood.

In contrast, the herrmiddag felt like the real thing. The Swedish gentlemen were genuine and the setting, attire, and alcohol worked to produce a state of mutual sincerity.

I agree with the panelists at SIME yesterday morning that there’s probably going to be more online socializing that happens with one’s real identity in the coming years. If so then people are probably going to create temporary spaces of reciprocal candidness online also. They’ll be getting drunk or whatever at home and logging on with their ‘real’ avatars to some ‘real’ virtual world (as opposed to make believe games) for schmoozing with each other as themselves but temporarily outside the regular social constraints connected with true identity. No doubt it’s already happening, just not yet evenly distributed.

On a related note, there’s a bit of a resurgence of interest in the personal trust element of online relationships going on in the research circles. Eric & Alex have more on that.

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Alex
November 24th, 2006 at 9:39 am (#)

Indeed! For some, the current set of online social networks, games and virtual worlds are adequate for trust building and bonding; for most, and particularly for the non-digerati, they are not. Thanks for the interesting link.

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