I recently noticed that our society nowadays has lost access to an art of sorts. It is hard to say this without sounding like an older, regressive thinker, but the art of conversation has been almost entirely neglected with the advent of technology.
The cell phone and other mobile devices have seriously undermined the ability to create casual conversation with strangers or others we may not know all that well. It seems, from my observations, that younger people — myself included — have a much harder time initiating and carrying on conversations that are not through media or technology.
One day, I was on the train to school when I witnessed two older gentlemen (who clearly did not previously know each other) start and carry on a lengthy conversation about an ordinary, banal subject. Hearing the conversation amazed me. I saw it as very foreign, and that bothers me.
I’ve observed firsthand how people hide behind electronic devices like security blankets, and sadly, I’m guilty of that as well. In a way, technology is almost making us lonelier, since we begin limiting our interactions to those we know and disregarding unfamiliar people.
It seems like people mostly come together and interact with strangers during dangerous or inconvenient times. For example, as I write this, strangers next to me at the train station are conversing and complaining about the delayed train service. It intrigues me that people begin to interact only after something goes wrong.
What can be done to remedy this gradual neglect of public conversation? It’s hard to tell, because everyone has his or her own comfort level for talking with others face to face. Our mobile devices have practically become a part of us, but putting them down for just a little while can make a bigger impact than one may think.
Also, having a little more confidence in oneself or being less shy can go a long way. I feel that many times, people choose to use their mobile devices in crowded areas because they are either shy or afraid another person will look badly upon them for starting a conversation.
However, many times I have initiated a conversation with a stranger or someone initiated a conversation with me, and it was an enjoyable experience in which both members of the conversation benefited in some way from the exchange. In a conversation, you get out what you put in, so showing you care enough to address someone can go a long way.
Once again, excuse my elderly technology-hating tone: I feel that no matter what age or technological awareness one possesses, the ability to start a conversation with a stranger ties us back to our innate sense of human communication.