Speaking In Thumbs: How Technology Killed The Art Of Conversation

by William Ralston
“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”  — Albert Einstein

I am a London resident, which means that I accompany millions of others who ride the tube backward and forward around this great city that I call home. It’s a wonderful place, full of life’s luxuries — a playground for the young given the little responsibility they must take on.

Many cultural aspects have stuck with me during my stint in the capital: the beautiful architecture, the constant buzz, the plethora of wonderful restaurants and the general lack of conversation due to the “iPhone Zombies.”

These people scour the streets, knocking one another over and reeking havoc as they browse the latest status updates, instead of paying mind to the direction in which their bodies are moving. People do not simply converse anymore, and if they do, it is via a virtual medium.

The art of conversation, ladies and gentlemen, is dying.

Now, allow me to clarify: I am hardly against technology. Indeed, as a semi-regular updater of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook via my iPad or iPhone, some would label me to be one of technology’s biggest fans. I, too, appreciate the benefits. I, too, am thankful for how social media has revolutionized my life, and I, too, sometimes wonder just how I could live without it.

The growth of such technologies has broken down the pre-existent boundaries of connectivity, facilitating communication in a world where travel is much more prominent than we could have anticipated. It is now just as easy to converse with my cousin in Cambodia as it is with my fellow tube passenger. For this reality, I am grateful.

However, humans are social creatures. We all need to feel wanted — desired, even — and this starts with a conversation. We like to talk, we like to converse and nothing can or ever will replace the bond for which regular conversation allows. Be it with a stranger on the way to work or a close friend of many years, the only way to develop a strong, genuine relationship is to get beyond the infinite possibilities of editing, cutting and deleting that exist via these technologies in which we continue to overindulge.

Face-to-face conversations present the true person, not the idealized image manufactured online and showcased to the world at large. It is only in this environment that a profound, lifelong relationship of trust and confidence can ever flourish.

This is not to say that we should banish these social networks from the lives we lead and resort back to playing Snake on a Nokia 3210, but it is important to be aware of the damage devices can cause to the relationships we foster. When it comes to our individual growth and development, the quality of our friendships trumps quantity, and while social media inevitably leads us with an infinite amount of shallow connections, it leaves us with very few genuine relationships that matter and hold the opportunity to grow.

So, recognize this and move forward. Do continue to spend time on social networks, chatting and expressing yourself as you see fit, but be careful not to neglect those who really mean something to you.

Converse with the waitress who brings you a coffee and revel in the morning sunshine with your fellow commuter. Not only will this make the other person’s day, but who knows just how important that connection — that newfound relationship — may turn out to be as you both continue down life's path?

Live in the present day and appreciate life’s wonders, not in a virtual world vacant of any profound connections.

Turn off the phone at dinner, invest time and laugh with those whom you care about most.