Do people still talk?
I’m serious. Do people just sit down and talk about things anymore? I know we’ve become more connected to one another than ever before, thanks to social media, mobile phones, email and other technologocal advances, but... do we actually really talk with each other these days?
I text with people all the time, and it’s a really convenient, handy way to keep in touch with folks. Facebook and Twitter have allowed me to re-connect with people from days gone by, and to keep in touch with family and friends who are scattered around this twirling globe of ours. But texting and social media are typically interactions that rely on brevity, and the most depth one usually imparts on another is in the form of a meme or talking point.
These digital avenues of conversation also lead us down that vapid rabbit hole of one-lane thinking, as well — particularly on social media. We read and regurgitate what we agree with, “like” comments that follow in lockstep with what we just shared and flip out on anyone who has the gall to disagree with our post or who posts something in response that he or she finds more agreeable.
There is no give-and-take. There is no opportunity for intelligent discourse or rational discussion. It is “this” or “that.” “Against me” or “with me.”
But, please don’t take this as a “get-off-my-lawn” column. Sure, I’m getting a little longer in the tooth (old-man term), but I don’t think my years of experience (old-man justification of being, in fact, an old man) preclude me from enjoying the advantages that these newer vessels of communication offer.
Social media, along with texting and emails, are massive, important advances in this world. Business gets conducted with the push of a button, while online webchats and meeting platforms save money on travel, and keeps families together more — as mom or dad doesn’t have to hop on a plane all the time to get to that next meeting.
We can now do the bulk of our banking online, we have goods delivered to our front door that we ordered on our phones while waiting for a doctor’s appointment and we have webcams on our computers and phones now that allow us to video-chat with doctors when we have an obvious ailment and can secure a prescription without ever getting out of bed. We order tickets for shows online, check the updated weather while eating our breakfast and open apps to determine how many grams of fat are in a chocolate-covered fried egg (don’t judge me).
These are all fantastic tools.
But they are just tools. Our problems come when we see them as replacements for actual conversation, or depend on them as our exclusive streams of information.
On Tuesday, as news broke that there was an active-shooter situation at YouTube, I watched people on social media react to the news as it was developing. I saw some people offering the customary thoughts and prayers, some shared angry posts about how this proves once again that we need to ban all weapons that make a “bang” sound or look scary, and others seemingly laugh at how California people somehow had this coming to them because of their comparatively-restrictive gun laws.
And there you had it. There were basically three responses, with several comments and “likes” under each post, along with a few cross words between people who had differing thoughts.
Here’s another conversation you might have seen all over social media in recent months, in a paraphrased and abbreviated form:
Person 1: I’m not listening to what these Parkland kids have to say. They’re probably eating Tide pods, and kids are kids. They need to keep their opinions to themselves.
Person 2: These kids are the future, and they’re showing adults the right way to do things. What we need to do is raise the age people can have guns, because people between 18 and 20 are too young to act responsibly.
Person 1: If a person is old enough to defend his or her country, they are old enough to have a rifle. Besides, did you see what the other Parkland kid said? He thinks kids should have guns.
Person 2: He’s too young to know better. He’s not like those other kids who agree with me.
Person 1: No, he’s the only one that was raised right. We need more people who agree with me.
Person 2: But, Trump...
Person 1: But, Hillary...
Nobody listens, because nobody has to. You don’t like what someone is saying online or in a text, guess what? You move on. You block the person on social media or you put your phone down and ignore a text message or you delete an email. But if you have a conversation with someone in person, you are going to have to answer that individual, or at least listen to what he or she is saying.
I’m not saying that will solve all the world’s problems, obviously, but maybe it helps us understand one another a little better if we actually have to listen to what other people have to say.
It’s not just politics. Personal interactions are the best part of living the life of a human being. Go in your bank and talk with the tellers. Get together with your friends for a game of cards. Hang around after church on Sunday, or join a book-discussion group. Social media and other avenues of technology are amazing, and I’m not suggesting anybody quit using them. Just remember to deal with people, too. They’re pretty fascinating.