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text killed conversation

staying in touch?How amazing is it to have access to almost everything and everyone with just the touch of a button, the typing of some words into a search engine, or the simple “text”? Globalization of culture, information, and technology is so fascinating to me in that we create more written information every couple of days than in the first 2000 years of human history (I’ll be looking for this fact online and will report back with a citation shortly, but I know it’s there) and we now have unprecedented access to every piece of the globe through a couple of clicks.

But have you ever considered the downside to this? I mean, have you thought about the downside of being able to be contacted through Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, BBM, instant messenger, G chat, multiple email channels, text, and phone? There are 100s of outlets that make it possible for each of us to contact one another and most of the time we consider this to be a good way of “keeping in touch.” But have you really sat down to think about how “out of touch” this could be making us?

Arnold Lakhovsky's The Conversation

This question sparked up in my Business Communications class last Friday night with Dr. Usowicz leading the discussion. I have thought of this many times, but never really heard other’s opinions on the matter. This session, even on a Friday night when I wanted to be hanging at the shore with friends, will live with me forever. The discussion actually became quite heated for a while as everyone expressed their feelings on the matter and shared past experiences from their lives to bring the point home. This has stuck with me since then and I decided to personally delve a little deeper.

I have had several times in my life where I think all I want to do is fall off the map. To just get away from it all to some far out place and just “live” for a while. Take it back a couple of decades. Not worry about “where my cell phone is”, “is my computer charged”, “does this place have internet?” All these things have pulled us together, but at the same time are pushing us further from really getting to know one another. Think back to the friends you made as kids. Think back to high school/college and to those friends you keep in contact with, if you still do. How well do you know them? I’m not talking about their “likes/dislikes”, their taste in music, their latest status update or tweet. I mean, how well do you know those people? You probably know those people better than you think. How about the friends you met more recently in this age of Facebook? Can you say the same? Its harder to make “true” friends

I can say that through the 1000s of hours in conversations I have had in my life, the friends that I still keep in contact with, the ones that I have truly known, are through face to face interaction and passionate conversation full of genuine emotion. Some of those conversations lead to uncontrollable laughter, others ended in tears pouring from our eyes and hugs of true compassion. Some lead to singing Oasis at 4am with a solid crew and getting another noise violation to show for your amazing vocal skills. Others lead to the closing of caskets for friends and family taken too early by accidents and disease.

These are the conversations you remember for a lifetime. The most interesting conversations I have had and still remember all revolve around the stars. I’m not talking in some astrological sense or in terms of the zodiac, I mean, they have happened outside under the stars. I am not sure why that is, but I just made that correlation in this moment of reflection and writing. I think back to hanging in the hot tub with my best girl friend talking about life after high school. What’s next? What would marriage be like? Who would our future children be like and grow up to be? What’s college going to be like? Imaging how horrible it was to be joining the work force. We looked back over our happiest moments and our lowest times. We contemplated everything that two high schoolers could fathom at that time and beyond. To this day, we still talk about that time we shared. My memory has faded since then, so I can’t always remember specifics, but she still does. I remember the setting. I’m more of a visual person. That’s how I remember things, through photos, videos, and places. I’m not sure why I am so forgetful, but that’s for another blog post of internal reflection. Either way, that doesn’t diminish the fact that I recognized this as the first truly amazing conversation of my life.

The second conversation that I think back to was held under the night sky on the other side of the world from where the first occurred. I can see our flight crew and squadron commander sitting around in a circle outside the hooch on our compound in Afghanistan. We sat in those foldout canvas chairs used for tailgating, smoking cigars that Aficionado the magazine had sent to us (thanks for that Aficionado, Ill be writing a piece about this conversation for your magazine tomorrow, seriously. I hope you like…and print it.). Sitting around shooting the shit about squadron duties, critiquing our actions/tactics in Afghanistan, talking about home and what we missed, the first things we would do once back on US soil, how surreal the entire war experience can be, all of this with some jokes sprinkled in between and admiring the most incredible light show I have ever been privy to. That night I saw more shooting stars than the entire sum of the nights in my life to that point. I remember telling my crew that prior to that deployment I had seen one shooting star in my life. It was like God wanted to blow my mind and that night we were given dozens. It was a truly spiritual experience for me bc no sooner did I say this to the group, the skies opened up. We talked about this night for the rest of the deployment and now every time I see a shooting star, I think back to our time in Afghanistan smoking cigars we couldn’t afford.

What I’m getting at here is that an Individual cannot truly experience a conversation if there is no setting and no speaking. We sit in our beds, on couches, in front of TVs, on subways, in cars and text/type away on our computers and cells never truly engaging in “conversation” as it is defined.

Dictionary: con·ver·sa·tion (kŏn’vər-sā’shən) The spoken exchange of thoughts, opinions, and feelings; talk.

Dissect this definition.
The SPOKEN exchange…To truly hold a conversation one needs to speak, not type, update
The spoken exchange of THOUGHTS, OPINIONS, and FEELINGS…text does NOT convey emotion. No amount of capitalized letters, exclamation points, or those silly ass emoticons 😛 can replace the sincere, heartfelt spilled emotion of conversing with another human being.

How many times have we written an email or text only for it to be received as the opposite of its intention? This has happened to me many times without any intentional malice and in fact was the spark that caused me to delve into this subject further. A recent string of texts that was confused by both parties involved and caused unnecessary emotional strain when a simple phone call could have resolved the situation.

The final piece of the definition, the last word says it all, “talk.” Conversation isn’t me blogging out my thoughts, it isn’t posting Facebook status updates, it isn’t tweeting, it isn’t throwing out a mass text, its none of these things. Talking is the elemental characteristic of conversation and we are losing this with every chance we miss to slow down to just talk.

Believe me, I enjoy having access to my friends through these means when I cannot entertain the conversation I desire. I’m not totally bashing nor am I a proponent for cutting these outlets from our lives. I’m a lover of iChat and now Skype. In fact I Skyped with Kevin just yesterday from Okinawa, Japan. It was only 5 minutes, but it felt good that he decided to talk to me before heading out on a 3 week training exercise. THIS I am a fan of. Chatting from the other side of the world and getting to see the persons just like when we used to sit around the dinner table together.

I’m just bringing to light a point that I have been thinking about for a long time. I appreciate the texts, the FB comments, and passing on this blog. But my intention here was to get this topic out in the open and off my chest. I’m sure there’s more to explore, but for now I am satisfied. Hopefully my ramblings spark up a conversation….

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