You are in line at the store. What do you do? More than likely you are checking your phone or playing Temple Run until it is your turn. What happened to conversations?
Mallory Bower and I had a chat a week or so ago about the lack of conversing skills in our peers, our field, and in the general population of this country. This led to each of us creating a little challenge amongst the two of us; no cell phones, no radio, no books, no distractions while in public.
For me this challenge meant two hours each day on the NYC subway awkwardly people watching…for a week. Day one was interesting. I noticed things I hadn’t before; men and women wearing sunglasses (um…you are in the SUBWAY underground), older folks with their eyes closed, young folks with music so loud I could hear what Ke$ha was um…singing?, and those like me – watching everyone. I was thinking, “What would that person who just made eye contact do if I started a convo with them?” They were probably thinking, “Shoot, please don’t talk to me.” or “WHATCHU LOOKING AT?!”
This is what Mallory and I discussed back and forth in an e-mail chain, amongst about 6 other possible blog posts.
We’ve forgotten how to talk to one another.
Now I know the phone in hand, the ear buds in, or the book opened are basic self defense measures to keep someone curious like me away from starting conversation. The entire week that I left myself without a guard to avoid these conversation attacks was uneventful. There was no one wanting to have conversation at 8 a.m. on the train. There was no one wanting to have a conversation at 5 p.m. on the train.
The first day I was able to have my book in hand again, I was relieved. This surprised me. I was relieved to not have to be on the lookout for any potential conversations. I was relieved that I could venture back to the pages and be in a different world rather than in a mysteriously scented E train subway car.
What I’ve come to realize is that we haven’t forgotten how to have a conversation, we’ve simply stopped wanting to have them.
I wish I had a photo of this ad in the subway but it sums up what we have become perfected.
“The best part about having a smartphone is never having to call anyone.”
Perhaps why I see more about smartDEVICES rather than smartPHONES. Phones mean calling. Devices mean anything other than calling.
Try it. Go a week with no distractions in public. See if you find yourself wanting to start conversation or if you find yourself anxious about the fact that you have no defense against someone starting a conversation with you.
For a much more eloquent rant about this phenomenon, check this article that Mallory shared with me: 21 Day Challenge: No Phone in the Company of Others.
Thanks for reading.
(If you enjoyed this post, I strongly encourage you to check out this post from Mallory Bower as a follow-up)