Friday, October 21, 2016

Conversation, May You Rest In Peace

There seems to be an abundance of talking, texting, and tweeting going on as of late but I can't help but notice how little conversation there is.  Frankly, I find it troubling.

As a little girl I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents who resided in the South. It was an era when the men would gather at the "filling" station to sit on the bench, drink their Yoohoos and Dr. Peppers and length.  Their conversations were usually pleasant with a lot of head nodding but even when they disagreed, it all seemed friendly enough.  Their chats consisted of stories of the past as well as all the current local news. These men stayed friends for life. Maybe all that sharing bonded them in some way. Those that were still living shuffled their way into his funeral.

The act of getting together to visit wasn't solely a male activity back then.  This was true for the women as well.  Women in that area met for "quilting bees" which was done around a big wooden frame while women hand stitched quilt blocks onto fabric but as they worked they were catching up on all the local stories.  I learned a lot about life listening to the chatter.

 For example: At one point when I was eavesdropping the conversation was about a lady named Sally that lived down the road. Sally had started a little side business "visiting" with men during the day when her husband was working out in the fields. From the tone of the conversation, I gathered that the women weren't enthusiastically supporting Sally's entrepreneurial exploits.  I later asked my grandma why men would want to visit with Miss Sally as she was really scary looking and was minus a lot of her teeth.  My grandma assured me that the men weren't paying to look at her face. 

Anyway....I come from a long line of people that enjoy just sitting around talking. That would be  the long-winded, storytelling, killing time, kind of talking.  I am saddened that it is disappearing. 

Every now and then I see glimpses of this style of conversation but it's becoming rarer.  Usually, I find that conversation, even when spoken out loud as opposed to communicating via devices, it tends to be more likened to a volleying of quips.  Not so much expounding on facts or ideas as much as pitching short thoughts at someone while they try to punt their ideas back at you, often while you are still talking.

If you ever have watched the television program,  The View, you know what I mean.  OR if you watched any of the current political debates, you can see what I am talking about.  Basically, it's an auditory assault more than a two way conversation.

Last week was a busy week for me as I had to spend some extra time preparing for the computer class I teach to "senior" seniors.  We are currently working on how to use our smartphones and tablets.  Part of the struggle of teaching 80 and 90 year olds about this type of technology is trying to explain "why" at their age any of this technology is even worth the effort to learn.

The reason they want to learn it is to stay connected to their families.  One gentleman in the class was saying about the time he had developed a great way to communicate with his grandson through emails, his grandson had moved onto texting.  The boy now has stated he would prefer chat via text messaging.  So  Chuck (name changed as he may not want me talking about him) bought an iPhone and now  is eager to learn the ins and outs of texting.

My heart breaks. I suggested he trade in his grandson but he seems very attached to the one he has and is willing to become a proficient texter.  I asked him the age of this particular grandson and he replied the child is now 18.  I hope against hope that this child will grow into a man and sit down with his grandfather to talk.  I, of course want for them to have  REAL lengthy conversations that grandson can reflect on when he is in his 80s.  Is that too much to ask?

Frankly, I am tired of the art of talking being reduced to status updates.   I am prepared to blame both Facebook and Twitter for  their part in turning the tide on the old relaxed give-and-take style of talking to this "one sided" launching of words into the territory of someone else's "one side" launching of words.  One could always hope that at some point the ideas land together in some meaningful  way to form a conversation. conspires against those of us that long for lengthy, wordy, descriptive talk fests. Just as Chuck's grandson many people have embraced a text only lifestyle that is reduced to shorthand, abbreviated words or even worse.... communicating with emojis.  Take for example: Recently a car company conducted a customer satisfaction survey but asked the participants to answer only in emojis. They have a commercial that shows  a portion of this survey as well.   Visualize me having a sad face.

If I wasn't already a bit peeved at the current lack of expansive and civil conversation, yesterday I received an email from Twitter. It asked me if I know how to Tweet.  I could think that their comment sounded a bit accusatory but they aren't entirely wrong.  While I am surprised that they have missed  seeing my tweets among their millions of users, they seem to have grasped part of the problem with me and Twitter.  I just don't "get" it.

I must not be alone in this, though, because I was just reading an article that said 60 percent of people that signed up for Twitter  never used it past trying a tweet or two.  I initially thought I would be great at Twitter as I am somewhat a twit but it didn't take me long to realize that I am not great a keeping within the bounds of 140 characters.  Nor am I particularly great at coming up with hilarious one liners at a moment's notice.  I am failing at Twitter.  I may never actually accomplish a Twoosh  (a perfect 140 character Tweet but remain secure in my belief  that it doesn't make me less of a person.)
I am willing to confess that I am challenged to say what I want to say when given a mandated character count.

A Twoosh is a Tweet that is exactly 140 characters long.

But that brings me back to my class of seniors that want to board the Facebook and Twitter train thinking that it's taking them someplace fun and relevant.   In my heart of hearts, I think that they have far more to teach the techies than the techies have to teach them.

I hold out hope that lengthy conversations where people share thoughts without getting indignant, offended or feel the need to over-talk each other makes a comeback.   Imagine my happy face. 

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