Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Are You Talkin' to Me?

Flashback to 6pm Christmas Day in Denver Colorado. Upstairs a flurry of activity (which I am studiously avoiding) indicates that dinner of regal proportions of forthcoming. My brother sleeps on the couch. My sister-in-law has provided me with a glass of rose champagne and I’m hiding in the downstairs family room with this scene behind me.

Are they related? Do they love each other? Do they even like each other? Do they only see each other once a year? Yes to all of the above but in this techno world they’re hooked up to earbuds and headphones (now so old school they’re back again) watching movies on newly received Kindle Fires and iPads and listening to music on iPod-nano watches. Am I even speaking English anymore?

I could delve into the implications of a generation that knows each other through Facebook (one niece was given an account as her greatest wish for Christmas. By 7:30am she had sent me a FB invite and by 4:30 had over 60 friends). And yet…and yet. They play hide and seek, laugh and elbow each other, shriek over old photos of their parents and beg to be told stories about their parents’ misspent youth. Isolation and togetherness.

For some of us it’s all right- I sat and typed away, comfortable in my own head but for others it’s profoundly discomfiting. My mother moved from room to room asking questions and wanting to interact but not only unable to understand the technology but uninterested. What she really wanted was someone to sit and talk to her about their deepest thoughts and feelings. For people like her there is no substitute for the human voice.
Is this shift better or worse? Will this generation be able to truly connect with each other and the world at large? Or, like lovely penmanship, is talking going to become an antiquated form of communication? Will personal isolation become the norm and all socializing be done online? The clack of keys replacing conversation?

Asked as she typed this post while her husband cooked nearby listening to a podcast…

5 comments: said...

This really resonated with me. I spent the evening with my in-laws and even though I have had more than 13 years to get to know them, I don't really. It's not really the fault of technology (although through my nephews I see what you are saying--after my nephew left my Mom's yesterday, I saw that he'd liked one of my Facebook statuses from his phone while sitting with me in my Mom's living room), it's a combination of only seeing them once or twice a year and my introversion, but this post reminded me of the conversations I used to kind of overhear between my mother-in-law and her other daughters-in-law and her older grandchildren. I wish now that I hadn't been so afraid of her, because I can't ever have one of those talks now.

Abby said...

I have totally mixed feelings in that I am hooked on technology. When it comes to friends and things, I love that I can shoot an email or keep up to date on Facebook. I crave it.

However, if those people are actually NEAR me, I NEVER go online at that time. I actually think it's really rude in that you should be able to unplug and have a conversation with someone without distracting yourself for 10 mins. Even if I don't really want to be with those people, the time commitment is minimal ;) Log off, if necessary. It's a delicate integration, no?

Pamela D. Hart said...

Yes, communicating and the generations is vastly different.

I like technology, but I LOVE human interaction. So, I take the initiative and TALK TO the youngsters. I long to have those "deep" conversations, but I know they want to talk about other "stuff", so I find out what THEY like and allow the conversation to go there. It seems to work. Once I get them started talking about things they like, they won't shut up!

Catherine said...

Abby, Tracy- It's an interesting topic for me because I'm such an introvert. Communicating with writing gives me more freedom but it makes talkers nuts! Plus you lose tonality in email/text/etc. and kids can get out of hand w/ it. That makes me nervous for their sake.

therhythmmethod said...

Yes! Yes! It's a conundrum. I love to write and it completely suits my introverted ways, but at the same time I worry my kids will never fully appreciate how wonderful it is to receive a handwritten note from across the country, or hear a story from their grandparent. Connection means something entirely different for them, and I think they are shortchanged in the exchange.
Great post. Happy NY! :)

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