Monday, July 6, 2015

Is Conversation Out of Style?

The art of conversation today truly takes artistic skill to elicit.

If we were to bump into each other on accident, we would hopefully excuse ourselves and smile before continuing onward. Yet, in a bright moment, we might also chat about the beautiful day or make a nice remark on the possession or outfit of the other. We would interact. But this isn't always true.

There is an increasing tendency to avoid interaction. Perhaps we are growing uncomfortable with being on the same terra firma as each other. It is as if our humanity is out of place. Our human culture is changing.

Yes, I could blame technology, and in that blame there is an element of truth. Yet if we rest on "blaming technology" we actually avoid the true - truth. We are avoiding the opportunity to evolve. Prince Ea, a YouTube poet, tells it so eloquently in his video poem, "Can We Auto Correct Humanity?".

We have an instant parental disdain for computers and gaming that our children enjoy - sometimes beyond the scope of what we consider reasonable.

However, when we were children and we enjoyed television programming, did our parents evolve? Certainly there were disagreements, limits, but there also was, for the lucky, family game nights, potluck parties, poker nights, camping, etc. Our families evolved around it, and eventually, like it does for some, the TV remains off for hours at a time.

Now there are those who love the sound of the TV, for company, they might say, but in general, we understand that the TV isn't central to our family lives.  In the past, gathering around the radio, gathering around the TV and then around the VCR was a family event. We enjoyed it as a group. It was a different culture.

The difficulty with the internet and computers and smart phones is that for the most part, these types of digital enjoyment are individual. Families cannot evolve around it very well.

But we have to try. We have to create opportunities for conversation.  We should ask questions, in a respectful manner, of each other. Bear with it. In the beginning you might get a "grumpy monkey", because questions are so unusual these days. Be of strong heart.

If you cannot have internet-free days, then try to start small: have digital free moments. Leave the phones in the car when you are at the beach. Take a walk without your smart phone. 

Our parents did not have an easier time with technology than we do. They worked with it, around it, and limited it. They even had conversations at the dinner table. "How was school today?"

We have to make more of an effort to break off our own tech use to have conversations with our children. How many times do you look at your phone today? How many times did you look at your child? Compare notes.

We need to evolve and adapt to this new social environment without seeing it as a gang of evil. Our children are growing up without a frame of reference for "having a conversation" but that is not their fault, not technology's. We may be the last generation to understand that people usually speak with each other as part of a courtesy and not a requirement.

We have to give voice to the evolution. We need to initiate and continue that conversation about caring, about politics, about religion, mundane things and insane things - out of our heads, and into the real world of the dinner table, bus stop, car ride.

Be wary. Conversation is not an argument. The internet has given rise to the perception that making trouble is worthy of attention. "It is the mark of an educated mind which can entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle.
That is our goal. Our goal is to share, be heard, and truly hear the other, without fear of judgement. Our children deserve that same protection: to be heard without judgement. (You can always judge in your head -you know you cannot help it!)

If you are holding your iPhone right now, challenge yourself to look around you and smile and speak with someone you know (or don't know!). There's a wonderful video on YouTube, "Look Up", which speaks to all corners of our society. Watch it alone. Watch it with your family. My eleven year old daughter introduced it to me, to my undying gratitude.

The evolution of culture, starts with the evolution of habits, starts with the evolution of thought. It starts with a conversation.

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