After reading this week’s lecture about conversation, I couldn’t help but reflect on the topic. I’m fascinated with the way people interact, in every facet. Meeting for the first time, the progression of a relationship, face-to-face interaction, body language and – you guessed it – bonding via technology. This is why I’m such a fan of Catfish: as a viewer, I try to decipher why it’s easier to trust via the internet. I’m determined to find the answers.
But conversation comes with a terrible downfall. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that people are constantly on their phones in all settings, whether social or isolated. Instead of bringing us closer, it causes an “alone togetherness.” We’re together, but distracted.
If you’re on a date with someone incessantly using his/her phone, they’re uninterested. If you’re a student, texting could be the difference between an A and a C. As a waitress, I see parents eating with their children, in silence. Mom and dad are texting, tweeting or Facebook-ing while little Johnny eats alone. It’s sad. There’s no other way to describe it.
Last year, Sherry Turkle led a discussion, “Connected, but alone?” about the role of phones in our lives.
Referring to the “Goldilocks Effect,” Turkle says that “people like to keep themselves at a distance that they can control.” This is because real conversations imply pressure. Eye contact. Body language. Immediate response. Real emotion. Vulnerability. As Turkle describes it, we can’t edit, rewrite or delete during real conversation, but with texting, we can.
Turkle goes on to say that cell phones provide an “illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.” We aren’t required to take stroll with Lindsey, but we’ll text her at 11 p.m. Even worse, we’re so suffocated by our phones that we don’t enjoy “real” alone time, which makes us feel more alone.
I agree with Turkle, as I fell victim to these situations. I’ve tried to spend some “me time” reading, only to simultaneously text eight people. Just today, I went to the gym and texted while reading, watching TV, listening to my iPod, using an exercise machine and later talking on the phone. This was supposed to be alone time – it wasn’t.
I’ve experienced the cell phone’s lack of compassion. I can text my old college roommates, telling them I miss them, but it’s nothing like being together, laughing and making memories. Texting can only go so far.
And yet, we continue to use texting as a wall. We won’t rid of the habit, but we complain when our date texts during meals or our friend doesn’t answer quickly. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s the fate of our generation, or so it seems. As a nation, we’re distracted from the one tool that’s used to keep us together.
It’s a paradox, really.