Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Are We Fleeing from Conversation?

When I read this article, I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised. But I was a bit saddened by it. I’ve been saying something like this for many years and, in this case, hate having my opinions confirmed.

Before I continue, a confession: I’m not one of the great conversationalists of this or any other age. In fact, I’m quite introverted. It takes me a while to warm and rev up when in a group of people. Once I’m comfortable, I can join conversations. But it takes time for me to get there.

So, from that perspective, I can understand the allure of email, texting, instant messaging, and communicating via direct message on Twitter. We can put on the masks that we want, and be the person that we want. As the New York Times article pointed out:

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

But I also understand the need for face-to-face conversation. And the advantages of it.

Face-to-face conversations have a bit more depth, I think. We can see the person(s) with whom we’re speaking and can better gauge their reactions to what we’re saying. They might wear (figurative) masks, but there are also tell-tale signs that what we’re saying is or isn’t engaging them.

Speaking to someone in front of you also has the potential to let the conversation drift off on interesting and unexpected tangents. I don’t see that happening all that often with electronic communication.

Email, texting, instant messaging, and other forms of digital communication have their uses. They can bridge distances. They let us cross time zones. They give us an opportunity to quickly interact with people. But I don’t see them replacing live conversations with another person. Relying on them alone cuts us off from richer, more fulfilling communication with others. And that’s one of the things that makes being human worthwhile.

Thoughts? Let's start a conversation on Twitter.

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