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03 Feb

The art of conversation



It has to be said, the days when mobile phones were used for phone calls and when “going out” usually required some one-on-one interaction with another human being are now rapidly diminishing in the rearview mirror. In fact, it was really hit home to me during a romantic dinner earlier this year. Now I know it was a romantic dinner, because it was Valentines Day, and in a rather expensive restaurant most of us reserve for a “special night out”. We had a great time – laughs, glass chinking, great food, great conversations about the great food and daydream speculation of when we’ll take a cruise to where more of this great food is made. This, as far as I’d been aware, was how couples took advantage of some “us” time when out and about. And that’s when I discovered I was getting really old.

The table next to us was occupied by a younger twenty-something couple. But while we chinked and chatted, they were dead silent – both noses buried in their smartphones, barely even pausing to look up for their main course. I’m not sure they said a word to each other the entire night. And yet here they were, the romantic night of the year, all dressed up, fine dining and champagne – and they weren’t participating. Sure, they’d made the effort to go out together, but neither were really in that restaurant that night…both were far away, in different places.

And the thing is folks, this is the future of the 21st century. We’re producing entire generations – even including my ertswhile X generation – who have forgotten how to talk without a touch screen at their finger tips. Is this a bad thing? Isn’t this what they said about  television forty years ago? It’s probably the same argument, but generally the television never went in our pocket everywhere we went…the smartphone and its tablet big brother do. Camping, eating, driving, sleeping, taking a shower and taking a quiet moment…there is no longer any escape from our technology – it is there, 24/7, and most of us can’t put it down. It’s the poker machine, it’s our friend, it’s our video, it’s our connection to the world, and bluntly, it’s now our crutch.

Many of us can no longer imagine a world without smartphones – most of us will check our device at least once an hour, many of us will think nothing of checking our current status even while having a conversation with a real live talking person. Smartphone users – almost as a whole are becoming divorced from social engagement, or at least the kind of social engagement that existed before 2008. Perhaps, in an almost scary way, our lives and personalities can be measured by what we were like before and after we got our first smartphone.

Some of us might not have changed much, but a lot of us have. There are now millions of people out there who judge the meaningfulness of their existence by how many ‘online friends’ they have…friends they have probably never met, and friends who will probably never care what happens to them. Is this healthy? Well, it may not kill us, but if it’s changing how we think, what we do and how we relax, then it may not necessarily be a positive outcome.

So what should we do?

All right…how about accepting this new technology like a super-rich chocolate cake. Hardly any of us would think of eating a sickly-sweet head-spinning cake all day long, so why not treat our smart device the same way. Put the phone down for the afternoon, give the tablet a rest for a day. Instead, try to remember what you did before you got them – chances are your days – and life – were just as fulfilling back then. And it won’t hurt to find the “old you” for one or two days a week. So give it a try…maybe you can even “like” it.

Haven’t turned your device off yet? Well, okay, maybe Setter’s Health Centre can help you relax with out it for an hour…

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The art of conversation

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