The Death of Conversation


Screen time is something on everyone’s mind lately. It’s rotting our brains, making the kids want to kill themselves and each other and ruining marriages faster than Ashley Madison herself. We all think we’re immune, but it seeps into every social situation now days, and to be honest, I’m slowly inching towards putting my phone down for good.

Now, don’t think that the irony that I’m typing this on a screen first thing in the morning is lost on me, because it’s not. I’m as bad, of not worse, than a lot of people. I use my phone and computer for work a lot, but realistically, it’s not an excuse. I have two google alerts set up one for “communications” one for “social media”. If that doesn’t scream screen addict then I don’t know what does. I love computers and I love that they’ve opened a whole new career for me. It’s my social media time that I try and limit. I’m still aware that I use it more than most, and not really for anything productive, just that absent minded scrolling. I understand the need to engage the caveman side of your brain sometimes, just switch off and go on autopilot, but these hours scrolling aren’t a brain dead activity. I’m picking up social cues constantly on how I should look, what I should be doing with my life, how much more popular people are than me and, of course, how much happier they are. Maybe some of you are immune to that special brand of bullshit, I don’t know, but I know I’m not. So, I’m trying to become a conscious consumer and if I am using social media for absent minded nothingness, I’ll switch to a number game instead. I’m no scientist, but I’m sure their must be massive benefits for my well being.

I’m not perfect, but I am aware of be my behaviour, and I wonder how many people can be caught up in this epidemic if they had really understanding of how they used their phones. I’m meeting more and more people that don’t know how to cope without. They struggle with real life human interaction, and put online interactions on a pedestal. How often have you heard people say that they’ve met people they really connect with online, and what are the odds that these are the same people that would have a hard time approaching a stranger for directions or chatting up someone in a bar? The art of speaking to people has been lost a little, because we’re never alone. I’ve been for coffees by myself and sat in a bar and had a drink alone and it’s true, my natural response is to pull out my phone. When I don’t, almost every time, people approach me and talk to me. Sometimes it’s a meaningful encounter, most of the time it’s just a pleasant chat. I’m not sure how I would cope with that if I was more of a screen addict. I know people that play on their phones on purpose, to avoid the social interaction, which I can understand. Mainly it’s women who don’t want to be harassed, but spoiler!: having a screen in front of you won’t keep the creeps away. If anything, they’re the ones that are persistent enough to ignore your virtual force-field.

It’s not just talking to strangers that people are missing though, I know several people who will pull out their phones multiple times when we’re catching up one on one. Probably the same people that will ignore my phone calls, then text me asking “what’s up?”. It keeps the barriers up so they don’t really have to engage, because honest connection takes focus and attention. Maybe I should be more forgiving, after all, I am a fellow screen addict, but it makes me feel forgotten. I don’t know what you’re doing on there, but in my mind, you’re always connecting with people more interesting and important than me. I hope I’ve never made anyone feel that way.
I’m sure I’m not alone in that thinking. 50% of people say that social media has a negative effect on their romantic relationships. I know that relationships are hard and screens are easier, but screens can’t love you like people do. If the first thing you do when you wake up is check your phone instead of roll over and look at the one you love, if you’d rather talk to your friends from another country than ask the one in front of you what they’re thinking, if you’re looking for love online then batting away every advance from a real life person, the problem may not be the screen. If my phone died tomorrow, never to be resurrected, sure I would grieve. But part of me would be excited. So, I’m going to stop waiting for that day and make it happen, put my phone down and start looking people in the eye. Sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable, but growth doesn’t come from a comfort zone.

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