Thursday, May 3, 2012

The dying art of conversation... huh?

This is what many are 'talking about' - the death of conversation.  In a world that is increasingly turning to texting, tweeting and chatting online.  Well connected, but in silence. Who would have thought it possible?  People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening. 


At home, time and again, we have stopped the elder one in her conversation, to tell her to get to the point, and to skip the details (sorry S!) . She is a great one for that.  Thankfully it has not stopped her, ever.  But now, if we are to go by the words of the  renowned psychologist and professor at MIT - Sherry Turkle - it is important to listen to each other, even if it is in the most boring bits  because it is often in unedited moments, that we reveal ourselves to one another.

Professor Turkle says students have mastered the art of eye contact while they are busy texting! Nothing new.  How many times have our children ( I am without doubt speaking for all parents) nodded their heads at appropriate moments, blinked, changed facial expressions to give you the impression that they are hanging on to every word  said, while their fingers dexterously typed out long messages.  To think that we spent hours trying to get them to hold a pencil and learn to write!  This particular fine skill of texting came naturally to them!

Turkle has also coined a new term - the Goldilocks effectnot too close, not too far, just right , keeping in touch with so many people yet to keep them at bay - at a distance they can control - .  For most youngsters, human relationships are messy,and they move from conversation to connection.  And over a period of time stop caring.  They forget the art of conversation, and skills associated with it.  Of being patient and empathising. Always in the company of 'friends' - if we cannot be alone even for a while it will only make us more lonely.  And that is a scary thought.

I guess it is due to the numbers in India, our world has not fallen silent.  And we are a nation of noisy people.  But surprisingly, when I took a journey by train some time ago it was so different.  I remember how much fun it used to be earlier. The noise, the hawkers, the conversations, sharing of meals.  But this time, I found it strangely silent.  Only the hum of the airconditioning.  Almost all were busy with their smart devices (I think I was the only one with an 'antique' piece). Playing games, on facebook, or tweeting. And being constantly warned not to accept food from strangers, we all settled down to the boring railway catered food and ate in silence.

Another time, I was awaiting my turn at the billing section of a hospital.  A lady barged in before me.  I thought I should protest, but she looked distraught.  She was hunched over the counter and I thought she must be having a tough time and after all it only meant a delay of a few minutes.  But it took longer and curiosity finally got the better of me and I peered over to see the cause of her despair.  But lo! I found her face inches away from her phone and she was playing a game.  I guess the pained expression shifted to my face.

It is nice to think most of those of my generation still pick up a phone or drop by to have a conversation.  Not just someone who 'likes' or 'pokes'.  And thank god once again for S and her incessant banter. 
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