The Lost Art of: conversation.

Screen shot of my new phone.

Screen shot of my new phone, apps at the ready.

Previously, I hinted at my tongue-tied-ness.  As a typical introvert, how often have I found myself at a function where I do not know many people, struggling to make conversation, only for it to sound forced and stilted?  Or for the conversation to fall back on the easy standbys rather than being a sparkling conversationalist?

(FYI:  Yes, that is a ring on my finger.  Yes, I have been married relatively recently.  No, I’m not as young as you think I am.  No, it is none of your business as to whether I am planning to have children.)

However, I think this experience is only a magnified example of what is becoming a common trend in everyday life.  The ubiquity of the smart phone has made people (myself very much included) lazy conversationalists.  Where there are gaps of knowledge, rather than being content to thrash out the issues and test our skills of extrapolation and hypothesising (and having a damn good conversation in the process), we instead keep our smart phone at the ready to google it.  (As an aside, since when did “to google” become accepted as a verb in our everyday lexicon?)

I was at a conference recently and at the table where I was seated, no-one really knew anyone else.  After the usual introductions and small talk were made, the group descended into silence.  Eye-contact was avoided.  And then, one by one, we each reached for our phones and became engrossed in … what?  Emails that were so important, they couldn’t wait until we got back to the office, even though we had decided to attend the conference despite it meaning a day away from our desk?  Facebook?  (I have a feeling it was more likely the latter rather than the former.)

Reaching for your phone is so easy.  More and more, it is a little summary of one’s life, encapsulating phone calls, texts, address book, emails (work and personal), time and date, calendar, to do list, camera, calculator … the list is endless.  Lost?  Google Map it.  Want to capture that special moment?  Instagram it.  Need something to read on the bus?  Catch up on the blogs you follow on Feedly.  Not to mention the myriad of apps to make your life easier: banking apps to transfer money; the Transperth app to plan your public transport journey; the Urbanspoon app to decide whether you want to try the newest up and coming coffee shop.

Next time you are out with your friends, I challenge you to turn your phone onto silent, pop it into your handbag and not check it until you are home again.  Actually talk to the people you are with, without the conversation being punctuated with text messages to people who aren’t there or backlit by the glow of your smart phone screen.  It will be difficult to begin with, but as the conversation flows and your relationship with those people becomes all the more rich for being 100% committed to enjoying the time you spend with them, it will be totally worth it.

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