And I don’t mean ‘Pass me the vegetables’ or ‘We ran out of milk’ sort of sound bytes. Nor do I mean texts, or Facebook messages, or Tweets.
Conversation is when two (or more) people talk face-to-face, not because they’ve been forced to by the circumstances, but because they wanted to talk, and took time out of their lives to do it.
I was recently visiting friends, and realized how our handheld devices– iPads, smartphones, distract our eyes (and attention) even when we’re with those we like/love. We never give fully of ourselves– in our need to stay connected with many, we hardly ever truly ‘connect’ with the person sitting next to us.
This is why, an article I read recently in the New York Times really resonated with me: (The article is quite worth a look..)
In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.
Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.
Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.
I agree that we use technology to keep others at bay while still giving the impression of complete accessibility– but it is not technology that makes us do it, but our increasingly self-centered world-view. We have no time for others.
A splendid (by my standards, anyway) conversation I had the other day was in fact enabled by an iPad– I and my girlfriends spoke across the seas to another of us, via Skype: she is expecting a new arrival, and we admired her baby bump, the cute (but slightly over-sized) woolens she has knitted for the baby, waved to her husband, and promised to take pictures and facebook all the local food she craved (but could not find in her new country) just in order to tease her!
From time immemorial, technology always has been a two-way process– we use it to make our lives easier, but it also affects us in ways we did not account for. I’m just hoping all our communication devices do not actually deprive us of our conversations.
When was the last time You had a conversation? Do you find yourself having less conversations the more you connect?