Re-finding the lost art of conversation

Posted on May 17, 2012

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I’m a Londoner. I commute on the tube. I read the Metro. I find the thought of anyone making any sort of eye contact with me that sits opposite chilling to say the least. I’m like a rabbit staring into stadium floodlights at the thought of anyone asking me if they want me to sit down at the only spare seat available on the car at rush hour. When did we become so passive? So insular? So up our own selves?

Then there’s my life at home – I sit solitary with me, myself and I in my room lying there staring aimlessly into the ceiling on my bed. What do I do with that time mostly? Nada. But for whatever reason, I’m happy this way. I’m not reading a book from my unread pile. I’m not on my laptop, nor am I listening to music either. I’m staring into an abyss via the medium of daydreaming and a white ceiling with a matt finish. But then, I’d much rather do that than socialise for the most part. Often, spending time and money on people generally seldom brings any inner pleasure. People are overrated.

Somehow, I think it’s safe to say we can relate to this. Living in a big city can have one drawn in by its attractions and well-to-do lifestyles. Who wouldn’t be? But statistics lately have shown that a large amount of people are living alone in London, right across the age groups above 18. Not necessarily through depression or being a total misanthrope, but just valuing their own little space. Something that’s a rare commodity to come by in a sprawling metropolis.

But every time I leave the city I find myself being a total bastard what with everyone being so nice and all. Especially the further north you go in Britain. Can you believe that people actually stop what they’re doing, mid-way through walking in the street, not in a particular rush to get anywhere and will give you the time of day? I recall a visit to Newcastle a number of years ago and with everyone being so approachable and not having to be at a meeting, not rushing to catch a tube (as they have Metro trains), people smiling and having chats! No moody record store owners, no monosyllabic retail salespersons, no pugnacious bus drivers. Such a world exists beyond the M25 everyone and I’m not talking about Watford. And they’re friendlier than you lot.

The problem a lot of people have is that insecurity and the thought of any chance of their momentary standing in their mask of anonymity being breached would send them panic-stricken. What’s to be chicken about exactly? People will forget about the ordeal in a matter of five seconds if it happened on a train platform at rush hour. What’s the worst they can do exactly bar creating an awkward atmosphere ? I suppose a YouTube upload unbeknownst to the dramatist in question would be something to worry about too. At least it would get people talking and commenting.

Which is what people need to be doing more, and less trolling online if possible. Social media, through networks of an endless tangled web of connections throughout the earth has connected us more than ever, but at such a cost. Grunts, nods and half-listened replies seem to count as communicating. Even abbreviations of LOLS, ROFLS and FMLS could well enter the English dictionary at some point. I can’t begin to tell you how much it depresses me that there’s a band called LMFAO either.

If we actually put our phones, laptops and iPad’s away for even half a day without getting convulsive, we might be a little less productive, granted. But I’m sure we might actually see what the white’s in people’s teeth looked like. And what people’s faces look like when not using FaceTime either. The art of conversation something that sadly, is slowly deteriorating as we place material objects over people and their feelings. It’s about time it was re-found, which admittedly in this day and age is very difficult.

But what’s to say it can’t happen? Next time you have square eyes or you’re frustrated at Angry Birds, why not say ‘Hi, how was your day’ to your spouse or whoever is nearest. They might think that there’s an ulterior motive or sinister plot behind your well-intentioned greeting but hey. At least you tried – which is something that we all need to do more of in order to rebuild our social lives.

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Posted in: News, Social