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365 arlophotochallenge 103 / 365 - Conversation

365 arlophotochallenge 103 / 365 – Conversation by Arlo Bates, on Flickr

I’ve wondered of late where our civilization is headed since the invention of the Internet and the proliferation of the smartphone. Everywhere I look people have their head pointed down engrossed in a screen. They don’t notice anything around them unless it’s worthy enough to take a video or picture to be posted on a social media site. Where are we headed when our social interaction is with a screen instead of a live human?

There was a time, not too long ago, when conversations were between live people. A land line phone allowed people to hold a conversation. Although we didn’t see them, the purpose of calling our friends was to converse by moving our mouth and allowing air to escape to make sounds. When I broach this idea of having a dialogue of sound with someone my son is texting, he rolls his eyes like I’ve suggested using some archaic form of communication. I have to wonder if he could hold a conversation over the phone in such a way the person could understand him instead of the grunts and sighs I get when asking him a question.

There is an art to conversing with people. While some are naturally gifted with gab, others are not. The art of holding a conversation takes practice which can only be achieved by talking face to face or over a phone. Why you may ask does it matter if I’m talking with a person using my mouth compared to using my fingers? There are a couple of things that I believe matter and I wonder what may happen as I see more people moving away from using their voice to talk to other people.

  • Anonymity – The internet allows a person to be anonymous to the people they are speaking with. Although they may know the person personally, because they are not face to face or speaking directly to that person on a phone, they may say things they wouldn’t have said had they not been online. I’d recently commented on a friend’s Facebook, his mom then commented back. I felt compelled to explain myself which in turn started a brief argument between not just his mom, but also with him. Would I have been so bold to have said something if he had vocally said his original statement in front of me? Probably not, but because I wasn’t face to face with them I didn’t have to deal with tensions directly in front of me which allowed me to make the comment.
  • Sound bites – A lot of the posts we see on social media sites are posted from phones. These posts are like quick worded sound bites. Because of this, sometimes the complete meaning of the post may become obscured. Although the person posting may know what they mean, that meaning was not adequately portrayed in the post. In the example above, my friend’s point that he was content with his life and he did not need to make more lists to accomplish, was missed by me. If the point of life contentment had been better made, I would have understood the post more and thus would not have made the comment starting the debate.
  • Inflection – As a person talks, they add different tonal qualities to the words they are saying. These inflections, unconscious or not, provide meaning to what is being said. Many times the same sentence can be taken in different ways because of the tone and inflections that are used when being vocalized. These nuances are missed within the visual arena of social media. Of course this dilemma is what gave rise to the emoticons and Internet slang used to portray emotion, but although these may help to show what a person is feeling, the subtle inflections present in speech are still a better way of understanding a person. Only face to face and personal phone calls can allow this interaction.
  • Loss of social behavior – We don’t talk to each other anymore. There are no conversations with strangers because our heads are buried in a screen. How can a civilization expect to get along if we don’t know each other face to face? Interactions with incredible people are missed because we are not listening to what others are saying. Typing an anonymous post or comment is not interacting with a person, it is interacting with a computer. A computer is not flesh and blood. It doesn’t have a personality to get to know on a personal level. Only by talking and listening to each other can one truly get to know another person. Most of the time when we are having a “conversation” by texting or on Facebook, there really isn’t a conversation happening because we quickly type out our response to the person then do something else; check email, visit another site, or watch a video as we wait for the person or person’s to respond. Webster defines a conversation as an informal talking together. Notice the word talking, not typing sound bite responses.

I cringe while I watch our children consumed with electronic screens and I ache when I see parents more absorbed in their phones while children hold out their arms yearning for interaction. The ability to talk to the world can be very addicting, but to be consumed by it can only lead us down a path with dire circumstances.

This video really sums it up. Please watch with your mind open to where society is headed.