Have we lost the art of conversation?

Talking in the evening. Porto Covo, Portugal
Talking in the evening. Porto Covo, Portugal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This recent think-piece in The New York Times argues that we have:

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates…

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

One of the rituals my husband and I enjoy is my driving him to the commuter train station in the morning. It’s only about 10 minutes door to door, but it’s a nice chance to connect and chat before his 40-minute commute and a crazy life working at the Times, one with six meetings every day.

We talk a lot, usually two or three times, briefly, by phone and maybe an hour or two in the evening. That’s a great deal more than many couples, certainly those with multiple children juggling conflicting schedules.

But sitting across the table from someone, sharing a glass of wine or cup of coffee, seems to have become an unimaginable luxury. How else can we ever get to know one another? I’ve had two female friends tell me, only after many years of knowing them, that they had each been sexually abused as a child.

That took a lot of trust and courage. I don’t think most of us would want to share such intimacies only through a computer or phone screen.

I love road trips, six or eight or ten hours in a vehicle with my husband, or friends, or my Dad. You get a lot said, and the silences are companionable.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, (on Virgin Air, maybe the reason for such indie fellow travelers), my outbound flight had a career musician beside me, Homer Flynn, who has spent a long life making very cool music in a band called The Residents. Their Wikipedia entry is huge! We had a great conversation, for more than an hour, about the nature of creativity, about managing a long and productive worklife, about inspiration.

On the flight home — 5.5 hours — I had a similar conversation with my seatmate, a visual artist a little older than I.

Ironically, she’d just opened and started to read a book about introverts and I figured she’d never want to chat. But we discovered we had so much in common we talked the whole way! She had even attended the same East Coast prep school as my mother.

Another flight, from Winnipeg to Vancouver, placed me beside a coach for the Toronto Argonauts, a professional football team. Orlando Steinauer and I had a great time comparing notes on the world of professional sport and professional writing. We found it hard to decide which is more bruising!

As you can see, conversation is my oxygen. I love meeting fun new people and hearing their stories.

It’s why, after 36 years as a journalist, I still enjoy my work — and the comments I get here. I’m endlessly curious about people.

Do you make time in your life now for face to face conversations?

With whom and how often?

If not, do you miss them?

388 thoughts on “Have we lost the art of conversation?

  1. I think we have to a degree. With modern communication and technology requiring snappy responses, we are drawn ever deeper into a sound-bite culture. I don’t feel the majority of people make the space and time to enjoy longer spells of reading or conversation … I see eveidenced in your stack of unread magazines 😉

    In our house we sit down together and talk during meals and share a glass of wine. It’s something I know a lot of families don’t do.

    1. I think the technology imposes the expectation we’ll respond quickly….but I don’t think we *do* have to. I loathe behaving mechanically and it does this to us.

      I value conversation so highly I make lunch/dinner/drinks dates with at least 1-3 friends every week. You can’t hug someone over the phone and sometimes we all need a good hug. The unread magazines are, actually, a reflection of my priorities…I end up talking to my husband or a friend (often by phone as a few live far away in Canada) instead of reading.

      We do have dinner together at a table properly set. I look forward to conversing with my husband who I don’t see for 12 hours every day. I think it’s civilized and something we lose at our peril.

  2. I try to, but all of my dearest friends, most of my acquatainces (plus that guy I’m married to) are are either the other side of this continent or another continent entirely! J. and I try to Skype once a day, and I exchange emails with a couple of my best girls once a day. It’s not as satisfying as a face to face conversation, but goodness know I talk to enough people a day across a police counter!

  3. Good heart-to-heart, face-to-face conversations are gold; I’ve come to value them as such, and try to make sure I get into at least one a day – doesn’t always work, of course! But if the intent is there, the living-on-purpose awareness that time spent with people is precious… that helps.

    1. Great point. We take for granted that person will be there in a week or month or year, and they may well not be. I lost a friend, my age, about 5 years ago and it was a terrible shock. It makes much clearer how precious your time is.

  4. I love conversation but not on social media or texting that much. I try to use these means of communication for my virtual friends, who do not “really” know me. I think there is a difference between communications and conversations.

    My husband and I try to converse by phone several times during our busy days…it grounds us and takes us back to the real reason we work.

    With a three year old in the house (grandchild) it adds another dimension to the effort to make some time for ourselves to converse.

    Conversing…lets not lose this art form …or what we will blog about? Right?

  5. When I married my husband and became a full-time stepmom to his kids, I was shocked that they either read or watched TV during dinner. I quickly changed that policy to eating and conversation. Turns out the kids were hungry for it and didn’t resist at all! Sometimes in the afternoon, hubby and I will go out and have a cup of tea or glass of wine, just to spend time together and chat. It’s so important!

    1. Good for you! I deplore this notion of not speaking at dinner — how else will we be civilized adults if we are not taught this at home?

      Jose and I always make time to talk. It’s one of the great joys of a good marriage.

  6. I find that technology broadens my horizons when it comes to face to face conversations. Quite simply, without the networks that I’ve established via Social Media, I don’t think I would have had face to face conversations with the people that I have.

    I think there are a fair few who use technology as a jumping off point to get to meet people they otherwise wouldn’t.

    It hasn’t changed how I relate to people, but it does give me the opportunity to get to know someone a little bit better before the real life meeting is initiated. While I can’t speak for everyone else, my conversations with people via the tech conduit are more targeted, less awkward and small-talk riddled and get faster to the heart of the matter. Which for a small talk averse hermit, is pure GOLD.

    1. It’s interesting. I haven’t lost any of my interest in intimate friendships but social media has greatly expanded my social capital, esp. on Facebook in ways that would never happen here face to face. I don’t live in the right neighborhoods and didn’t attend university with these people so could likely never penetrate their social circles in any traditional way, but in the past few weeks have “friended” some very prominent writers here who have accepted. So that’s been a surprising and interesting development for me.

    2. So, why are you avoiding “real life” meetings? That would be a serious change in how you relate to people. Might be a good place for you to explore. Meeting “real people” spontaneously is always full of awkwardness and small-talk riddled. For ALL of us.

      That is what they are there for – to teach you in “real life” what you need to learn about yourself and how to navigate many different kinds of relationship. Hiding behind “techno” doesn’t do much in terms of expanding your personal horizons and capabilities.

  7. Just found your blog and look forward to reading more. While the internet and social media have introduced me to many people I hope to meet face to face in the future, and are a great way to keep up to speed with family and friends, I feel it’s led too many people into a sound bite form of communication. I love extended conversations over a good meal. We raised our kids to eat most dinners at the table with place settings and real food. Every conversation wasn’t stellar (especially the teenage years when they weren’t speaking to parents), but they know how to do that as they enter their professional lives.

    1. Thanks!

      I grew up in the 1970s and it was then normal to sit at a table with your parents and eat a proper meal. It’s fairly shocking when young adults coming into the workforce, especially competing for scarce jobs, don’t know how to engage others easily in lively conversation. It’s a learned art, but one that will only make life happier, personally and professionally.

  8. Very interesting post. I’m not sure if we’ve lost the art of conversation, but there’s no doubt that social-media, which has its good points, is a distraction; for others, many perhaps, it’s a distraction to the point it’s their whole world, which can’t be good.

    For some time now, when I go out, I leave the mobile phone at home – the world is not going to stop if I don’t take a particular call! Just to chat with someone without a devise going off: well, it’s bliss.

    I don’t know if I make time to have a face-to-face conversation, but when it happens there’s nothing like it – when you and the person you’re talking to are so engrossed in the topic! I think over time people will get back into conversing for real – and truly communicating.

    1. I think face to face is a wholly different experience. I weary of spending my days and nights (even though I enjoy blogging and our conversations here) attached to a glowing screen. I like the freedom of speaking with friends while walking or biking or seeing a show and comparing notes at intermission or over a meal….i.e. shared experiences, not just shared technology.

      I’m glad you ditch the mobile. I’ve often thought of tossing mine in the river. I don’t like being accessible all the time.

  9. Ah, technology…does it keep us connected? It’s quite a paradox. I recently posted a poetry slam that addresses exactly this topic:

    Who knows…I may start commenting on all blogs with relevent poetry slams since I seem to have them for everything occasion.

    1. I would absolutely argue yes….50 years ago was 1962, then 1912…even in 1962, we had far fewer distractions (no Internet, email, social media, cable TV) and in 1912, face to face conversation was very much the norm as the telephone was invented in the 1870s but did not come into much wider use until the early 20th century.

      1. i would also argue that part of the loss of conversation is not just technology but our ability to talk, to exchange, instead of just stating one’s opinion, then waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can then state our opinion again. we don’t have the education or patience to actually entertain the idea of learning something from someone else. we just want to say our piece and move on. how dare someone disagree.

      2. 🙂

        Listening well is a skill, indeed…and one that this medium does not necessarily encourage. I’ve spent my career as a journalist (30+ years) listening carefully to the people I interview. It requires focus and concentration, for sure. And…respect.

      3. nice to meet you miss journalist. i’ve spent 25 years teaching writing, and now i want to just do my own writing. have you ever heard of radio personality bob grant? i once asked him what it takes to be a good talk show host. he said, “you have to listen. too many hosts have their list of questions, they read a question, they wait for you to stop talking and read the next question. you have to listen because many times, one answer might make all of the rest of the scripted questions irrelevant.”

      4. You must be whipped by now!

        I don’t know of Bob Grant, but he’s right. Every skilled interviewer also knows to listen for pauses, silence and hesitations…not just the words. Often simply asking, “Why?” in reply can stop a script and get to something much deeper and more interesting.

        I did an hour last year on the NPR Diane Rehm show while promoting my new memoir “Malled”. An hour of live radio “chat” with 2 m listeners is exhausting but a thrill. Both she and I really had to listen to one another very carefully and with a total stranger that’s a challenge in itself.

      5. oh, i am whipped, and i’m taking it out on the keyboard. i have four novels and about five or six short stories done. now i have to start the marketing process.

        NPR. that’s terrific. i should look up that book of yours. i like the scarf look. not that you should care.

      6. Please do! You might enjoy it…http://malledthebook.com/ It got some nice reviews and CBS optioned it as a sitcom, sadly not picked up for pilot…

        Marketing one’s writing is the shits. I loathe that part and it is totally essential to any real success.

        Glad you like the scarf! I like that photo (my husband took it. He’s a pro photog.)

  10. I’m that oddball in between Gen X and Y somewhere. An “oops” baby that came years after my siblings, I was still raised by boomer parents. Growing up I thought they were so much more strict than other parents, and I was often way behind in technology. I didn’t get a cell phone until my junior year of college. And then yesterday, I literally caught myself tapping my library book trying to turn the page! *Head…Desk!* It’s hard to find a balance between the ease and convenience of technology and the art of conversation. I find myself ignoring my phone and leaving it in my purse, and just hanging out at the house. Yesterday, my honey and I made our summer fun to do list and none of it involved technology!

  11. I never bring my phone to the dinner table. I think if people are trying to reach you and can’t get hold of you it’s more likely you have a life. Me and my boyfriend never check our phones when we’re on a date. It’s a strict rule we have. I think too many people spend time staring at their phones rather than speaking face to face

    1. So true! My husband and I were discussing this just last night (no phones involved!) and he said if he were ever to start dating again now he would immediately ditch anyone who checked her phone during a meal. I agree. It’s very rude unless someone you love is literally facing life-threatening circumstances.

  12. Such a timely topic — I was just speaking with my children at the dinner table LAST NIGHT about this very concept! We do “best and worst part of the day” as part of our nightly dinnertime ritual, and the exercise itself invariably serves as my “best” part of the day…we laugh, we learn about one another, we understand nuances of our days that we wouldn’t have known otherwise.

    As a parent of two tweens, it’s difficult (but necessary) to help impart an understanding of why conversation is imperative. They, of course, would rather rely on their electronic devices and grunts to communicate information. Not acceptable — but understandable, given our society.

    Of course, as a full-time freelance writer working from home, I look to our family interaction as sometimes the only time during a day I’m not communicating with invisible faces behind my computer screen. So I cherish it.

    My kids? They probably don’t now, but I’m sure they’ll remember it fondly in hindsight — as they struggle through the grunts and other monosyllabic utterances from their own children!


    1. Good for you! I, too, work alone all day at home as a writer and am positively starved for face to face communication…I sked in at least 1-3 lunch dates every week just for this reason.

      One truly crucial factor in socializing today’s kids and teens is that they WILL eventually be working face to face and side by side with other real people, not to mention college, the military or even the work we do, which involves a great deal of communication and negotiation. They **must** learn to speak clearly and persuasively to others, and not only those their own age.

  13. I agree. Families need conversation. Besides, checking every five minutes that you’re still in the loop, seems a bit desperate to me. Mobiles are socially intrusive IMHO.

  14. dweebcentric

    There’s something to be said for the lack of self-restraint on the part of the user who can’t hold off staring into their phones or at their computers when they’re with someone. Or several someones. I was out at dinner with my husband the other night and watched as a family of four – mom dad and two young boys – sat down to the table. As the parents sat there, the boys stared into what were either phones or small game consoles. Either way, if I was the parent, I would have said put those away. We’re eating dinner now. It would have been the right thing to say even if it was the father or the mother who were so rudely ignoring their company in favor of their devices.

    1. Absolutely. If parents do not (as is their job!) model civil/polite/social behavior, kids sure won’t learn it from the larger culture.
      I was sitting on a train recently and the mother offered her small son a piece of gum as he stared into his screen. He shrugged (!) and she said “whatever.”

      “No thank, you, Mom” is the only answer I would have found acceptable. But the mother didn’t know or care how rude he was being to her…

  15. I think you touch an important point. Although as you give yourself and your husband as an example, I am more worried about the younger generations. I am 24 years old and I find it completely odd to see an 8 year old with a cellphone, an Ipad or Iphone texting away on the bus. Although I do feel we can benefit so much from technology in several ways, I believe their is an addiction, an abuse of WHEN and WHY we use it SOOOOO much.

    For instance, if I am at dinner in a nice restaurant with friends, I find it completely rude to see someone at my table answer their phone or text under the table. Why can’t we stop and enjoy the time we have with people we love? Or the other day I was looking at a couple having dinner, again in a restaurant, both with their cellphones in hand. I believe that we are all loosing our conversation capacities in that sense, and it becomes further more difficult to have serious, important conversations. Barely any families I know sit down all parents, kids, teenagers at the dinner table without the TV or cellphones present.

    On the other hand, I have embraced technology for its inter-continental communication capacities. Iphones, programs like Skype, e-mail or Facebook have made it easier for me to spend a lot of time away from my family and friends, but still speak to them every other day. Or when I am home, it is technology that allows me to be in touch with my boyfriend who lives on another continent.

    I guess my opinion goes both ways and in an ideal world it would be to find the balance between both technology and face to face communications… In order to not loose the importance we have as human beings: to communicate with words and express our feelings and thoughts in a proper, clear way to be understood.

    1. I agree that younger kids are utterly seduced by it — but most of them do have parents, and it is their task to socialize them properly!

      The larger message this endless use of tech, at any age, sends each of us is that we’re all too boring….that someone else, somewhere, is more compelling. Rude!

      1. It is at the point now that if you want to organize a get together with friends, it is done by facebook, or by text message. A phone call would be so much quicker, but it seems people barely even do that now!
        I agree, completely RUDE!

      2. The biggest problem for me is how many ways people now communicate — if you’re under 20, no one even answers their phone. I never read texts and never send them. I am an email girl.

      3. I text but sometimes I just end up calling the person because I loose patience ahaha.
        There are soooo many ways and I mean, if the person just lives 20minutes away it would be so much easier to meet up for a coffee or something instead!!

  16. Excellent write up…I couldn’t agree more. For all the ways Technology has brought us together, it is also driving us apart. People would rather text than talk, apparently a face to face conversation is too much work and takes too much time. It seems we are always looking for an easy way out or a faster alternative, an unfortunate habit that I feel is causing much more harm than people know.

    1. I live for face to face conversation. I spend — as many of us do — my entire day attached to a computer or phone. By day’s end all I want is a real person to talk to in the same room.

      Luckily, my husband and I really enjoy and look forward to our conversations. (We do not have kids, as I’m very aware that small kids, esp. in multiples, can make uninterrupted chat very challenging!)

  17. A woman after my own heart! I don’t text or use Facebook, so it’s a relief to find someone who sees what I see, that you can only get so much out of computers and phones, and so much more out of actually talking to someone, and preferably face-to-face.
    BTW, you said you write professionally. What do you write?

  18. I saw a comedian talk about how technology has killed conversation – they talked about how the ability to use google has killed debate. Remember when you could ague with your friends in pub for ages about which artist sang that song? With a smartphone you can end that conversation in 30 seconds, maybe a minute if you’re on a crappy service provider. Turn off mobiles when you’re socialising!

    1. That happens so much!
      You google it and then there is nothing else to talk about…the conversation just ends there…which is completely crazy, as if google is always right?!

      1. Hah! I recently spent two days interviewing people at Google’s California headquarters. Seriously insane place!
        Here’s the NYT story on it (if interested!)….

      1. Plus, the cultural norms are shifting where there is little delineation between leisure and nonleisure places…people think any place, any time is appropriate to pop in ear buds, watch YouTube videos, or play games. What a shift!

      2. Ugh. I still recall (!) buying a Walkman and sitting down on some steps in midtown Manhattan, amazed I could just shut out the city.

        And here we are…It’s a real problem for anyone trying to manage those offering customer service. They often have no idea what that really means.

  19. Absolutely true . With texting or chatting we never actually get to ‘know’ a person . For example, I ‘chat’ online with some people whom I barely know but when I meet them in person in street or corridors, I end up with an awkward ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’ ..When I go to a railway station or a bus stop , I see more people bent over their cell phones or tablets . What happened to picking up conversations with a stranger talking about politics and other light subjects.. I really wish people would spend some quality time with actual people than their virtual counterparts .

    Great post 🙂 🙂

    1. Thanks so much!

      I’m like you. I love chatting up strangers…I did it this week on the train home (40 mins) and got to meet a fascinating guy who I am now interviewing this evening for a story. We have many things to share with one another but we have to talk to find out!

  20. It is so true, and so sad, that the art of conversation has indeed diminished. I admit to writing e-mails or a blog post when my roommate is talking to me. But when I do this, I try my best to finish the sentence I’m on, close the computer, and listen. What will be remembered is the conversation, the laughs, the debate, rather than the words sent off into the vast realm of the internet.

    Thankfully, I am surrounded by people who value conversation. My friends and I regularly get together for dinner and only go to our phones on the off chance that there is something we MUST quote directly for hilarity’s sake. And that quoting often spurs another hour or two of conversation.

    And thank you for this post. Face-to-face conversation really does seem to be a luxury these days, but I hope it will never be lost. I see that you are fighting for it, and I, too, will fight to keep conversation alive and intriguing!

    1. Yay for your commitment to conversation! So glad to know that others care as deeply about this primal and satisfying way of relating to one another.

      I’ll give you an example that is recent and important to me….I was recently in the hospital for three days after major surgery (I’m fine!) Two dear friends came all the way to see me, one of whom has two very small children and is very busy. It is hard to overstate the comfort and joy of having someone who loves you make TIME to be with you, in times of sorrow and joy. Nothing can ever replace that intimacy, in my view.

      1. I’m glad to hear you’re okay after your surgery! I completely agree that face time with loved ones is irreplaceable.

        Here’s one example from my life: My boyfriend and I text every day to check in on one another. We live about a half hour away from each other, but our work schedules don’t always allow for us to see each other on weekdays. I had a tough day at work about two weeks ago. During our daily check in, I texted that I could really use a hug. He surprised me by driving to my apartment just to give me a hug even though he had a very early workday coming up. Words can’t express how much that meant! I definitely hear where you are coming from with your story!

      2. Love him!!! 🙂

        It is meaningful beyond words, really, to have someone physically present with us. When I awoke from surgery in my room again there was my husband in the chair beside me. It is healing, literally, to be touched by those who love us.

  21. It’s all so true… we have become so accustomed to this new way of communicating. I worked in a high school for a little while, and it was fascinating to see how kids today have SUCH a different way of conversing than we do. I’m certainly guilty as well… I work with the public for a living, so I haven’t lost the art of in-person conversation, but I am absolutely terrible on the phone. Why pick up the phone when you can just send a quick text? And don’t even get me started on snail-mail… I used to write letters to people religiously, and I just don’t anymore 😦 I always say I’m going to give up the smartphone addiction and really start doing some of these things again, but we’ve almost become too convenient for our own good.

    Great post and a great subject. We all should talk about it more. You know, like, actually talk 🙂

    1. Thanks!

      As someone who speaks to people for a living — I’m a journalist and non-fiction author — this skill is utterly essential to my work. I don’t mind the phone but only for social calls. I do a lot of phone interviews and they are tiring. I prefer to interview by email whenever possible so I can cut and paste into my story.

  22. I’m with you! I love conversation and get really taken aback when I see people sitting together and texting. When I go out to eat with my boyfriend we treat this as time together and would never find ourselves texting at those moments. Yet, I see two people sitting next to us totally absorbed with their cell phones. Honestly, I hardly ever use a cell phone and it has taken a long time for me to even become comfortable with the internet for socializing. Now that I have a business on the internet I”m using it more for connecting with others. However, one of my favorite things is face to face conversation. I love the idea of salons, like the ones they had in Europe. The whole idea was to sit around amongst art, with other people who loved conversation and talk. Culturally we find cell phones and texting to be a necessity because we are so busy and trying to manage a lot of things at once but really I feel like people need to slow the hell down. People have no idea how much they are missing because they are never looking past their noises, literally. People think it is a sign of success to be so busy they have to constantly be checking their emails or all their texts, they are just so socially connected. All the while there are so many other chances to connect with the world passing them by.

    1. In New York where I live and work, people (ugh) literally walk into things and other people as they read/text and walk. I shout at them “Do NOT walk into me!” because I’m not prepared to take the (literal) hit for their insanity.

      I have now begun to use my phone much more to keep up with my work-related emails and with media requests for my book and for interviews, so that’s essential to me. But when I’m with someone, I want to be with them!

  23. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one concerned about the increasingly endangered species of interpersonal, non-virtual, human communication. Playing my own devil’s advocate, I often muse that perhaps this simply represents the beginning of my own generation’s disconnection with subsequent, younger, ostensibly more ‘modern’ generations – a natural phenomenon, akin to a cyclical, biological rhythm, it would seem, that occurs with the rise of each successive generation (e.g., horse & buggy vs Model T; 8-track vs record-player vs cassette player vs CD-player vs mp3 player; rotary phone vs touchtone phone vs cellphone vs smartphone, etc).
    I should say I am not a technophobe, but I still view technology as a tool with a specific purpose and not a replacement for human connection. However, it gives me great sadness to observe how much people miss by choosing to text while walking instead of drinking in or being a curious observer of all the interesting scenery and activity around them, or being excessively trigger-happy with their camera-phones, wanting to visually capture every pedestrian moment for posterity rather than living in and experiencing the moment with all one’s senses. The great fallacy of technology is the purported connectedness it offers; this is largely superficial, in my view. If anything, I think we’ve become increasingly inward-looking and socially isolated. It makes me wonder if the prevalence of various mental illness ailments would be less if we took a page from our ancestors and integrated more non-virtual, outward-focused, community-oriented pursuits into our lives instead of the inward-focused individualistic pursuits we espouse today.

    1. I agree entirely.

      I spend a lot of time, when away from the bloody computer (where I work and blog) in nature. I stare at the clouds and pat dogs and look at the flowers. My husband is a photo editor and photographer so he shares my passion for all things visual and beautiful. My closest friends are like this — people who most want to be with and talk to others.

      I sometimes long for a 19th century life (with the vote and anesthesia and antibiotics!) — because conversational skill was essential.

  24. I went out for dinner with my wife the other day. We’re both 25, so we’re still very much in touch with technology and its implications. Or so we thought.

    Next to our table was a family that had gone to the trouble of going out for dinner. At a restaurant. And what were they doing? All three children were on their phones, texting silently. The parents just sat there sheepishly. It was one of the most depressing sights I had experienced in a while.

    1. This is the part I do NOT (rant alert!!!) understand.

      “sheepishly”? They are the parents and they are in charge. They bought the phones for their kids and they can remove them or put them away. I am less depressed by kids with phones than the spineless parents who allow such silly/rude behavior from their own offspring.

      But I hear you…

      1. It was very much a compound emotion. It spoke of how the parents had let things fall by the wayside. It was obviously how it always goes in their house. There was such a disconnect between them and their progeny. And that is antithetical to what I believe in.

        I completely agree that it’s their fault to a large extent. But that only makes it even more depressing to me.

      2. I hear you…It’s a lousy sight to see parents who cannot even connect with their own kids. I see this with couples, but to see it with kids is too grim.

  25. Thank you for saying this. I’m 18 and refuse to get a cell phone because I see the damaging effects it produces and ultimately, enables. I think, although people are probably reading this on their phones or ipads in busy areas, it is something that needs to be said. We need to start to get back to the human experience: conversation.

    1. I’m totally fine with technology and use it all the time — I’m writing to you at home on my Mac computer. But substituting tech for touch is crazy and unhelpful. Thanks for weighing in…it’s good to hear from someone your age that this bothers you as well.

      1. I think that it starts becoming a pavlovian response. I need only look at people who get smartphones for the first time. The moment they start getting whatsapp and email notifications all the time, it’s like they don’t even think about it any more. The phone beeps, it gets taken out and checked, whether they’re in conversation with you or not.

        There is definitely a very unhealthy conditioning that we are receiving from technology. And unfortunately conditioning is very rarely noticed if you’re the one being conditioned.

      2. I like your analogy. That’s why I keep my phone on vibrate and almost never answer it. I HATE being interrupted. I can get to email when I bloody well feel like it.

  26. It’s really hard to convince my boyfriend of over 3 years to put away his cell phone and just talk in person. I feel like people really need to set time aside to actually spend with their loved ones.

  27. Reblogged this on Zinging leaves and commented:
    When people are together in a family, which happens all but only a few minutes a day, each one wants to tend electronic gadgetry or feign tiredness. The art of conversation should be our oxygen, we should be endlessly interested in people – at least the family – and find time in our lives to make face to face conversations. I agree with the blogger here completely.

  28. Wow — this is so true. I am a high school English teacher. It seems like the only “conversation” I can get my students to play a part in is on todaysmeet.com (a live chat room). If I ask a question, I may have an answer or two, but students are not willing to discuss like they used to.

    Even my husband and I are too busy checking emails, blogs or Reddit to pursue a thought-provoking conversation half the time. I love this post. Some of the best conversations I’ve had have been impromptu. I will definitely start trying to be more conversational in my own life.

    1. Ouch! I do not envy you one bit in the face of that issue. I used to love teaching (journalism to adults) but would hate a classroom without lively discussion.

      My husband and I are using tech more, but we carve out room every single day for a few quick phone calls and at least 30-60 minutes of conversation face to face. We both read a great deal and both work in news journalism so we never lack for things we’re eager to discuss with one another. He’s a devout Buddhist (which interests me) and we both love to take and edit photos as well.

  29. I guess a plane is one of the few places that conversations like that can still happen – you can’t use your phone up there! It does feel like an interruption to the conversation when someone answers a text or takes a call. But that’s the age we live in. There’s no need to debate any more as anyone with a smartphone can look up anything on google straight away. That takes all of the fun out of pub quizzes, but also out of friendly debates…

    All this technology and connectivity seems to lead to a feeling of isolation too. No one writes letters anymore, and they are so personal and lovely to receive. The technological age definitely seems to be taking something away from what is inherent to human nature – face to face communication.

    1. I had two really fantastic conversations on a recent flight out to San Francisco from my NY home; on the way out, with a career musician and on the way home with a visual artist. I was in heaven! I never get to talk about the joys and challenges of making a living creatively, let alone with others in different fields. It made a 5.5 hr flight so enjoyable!

      I make it a point to send a card or letter every week, more when possible, and use personalized stationery and nice cards and a fountain pen. It is all so sensual…Not like banging away on a metal and plastic keyboard or glass screen!

  30. As a therapist, where conversation is what I do, I am constantly amazed at how uncomfortable people are made by the prospect of connecting with someone face to face and in real time.

    Having said that, I also see e-communication as having its merits. Using your childhood sexual abuse example, I can definitely see why someone would want to use computers to share such intimate information – precisely because it is so intimate. We all strategically use social media to give us just the right amount of distance versus connection with people. Social media can be used to test the waters and reach out without a greater risk of rejection or harm that face to face communication might entail.

    Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thanks….interesting!

      I bet it’s really changing how you work. Luckily, when I interview people, they still speak to me normally and look me in the eye!

      I beg to differ in one major respect about social media, which has had the opposite effect for me. I am, clearly, not someone shy about expressing very strong opinions, here and in my work, print or books. But holy hell have I been SHREDDED for so doing by the vicious anonymity of people who never use their real names. I used to blog frequently at opensalon.com but was so disgusted by the appalling personal attacks that ensued after a few of my posts there I even called my local police after one man commenting there threatened to “beat me bloody.”

      It is a crime to threaten people on the internet in many states, including my own, and I will never hesitate to go after those who try to intimidate me into terrified silence.

      “Social” media? Not so much. Psychopathic is more like it, in some instances.

      1. Absolutely, you make a good point.

        More specifically, I was responding to this sentence of yours: “I don’t think most of us would want to share such intimacies only through a computer or phone screen.” Many people would disagree with this statement, especially young people who are so used to communicating primarily through texting. This is the reason why anonymous hotlines work so well when people are first disclosing sensitive issues like childhood sexual abuse.

  31. Hi. Great Post. I feel that we do not give our whole attention to one person these days. We are always on the phone checking email, texting or chatting while we are with someone, be it friend or family. So, last year my husband & I decided to keep our cellphones aside during dinner. This way we talk face to face without technology coming in between. We both work in IT & are constantly on computer or iphone. So, you can imagine what a relief that is 🙂

    1. Indeed! My husband and I are both journalists and, being in a global field working with people many time zones away, we are sometimes having to deal with email or calls in our private time. UGH.

      One must now very thoughtfully and deliberately create private, quiet, non-tech space with one another.

  32. One of my favorite rituals is walking my third grader to school. We get to talk about anything that is on his mind. He can leave the house in a bad mood, and by the time he gets to school, we’ve worked it through. I hope he lets me walk with him for a few more years.

    1. I bet he absolutely loves every minute of his time with you. We are all of us, at every age, so hungry to be truly listened to with care and attention. It’s very healing.

      Lucky boy…and lucky you!

  33. We grew up being taught and shown how important it is to communicate and share with the people around us. My parents always talked to each other, to us, to their parents/siblings and friends, and we took those values with us as we got older. I love talking to my parents, my siblings, my husband, and we always make time to just sit and chat, no technology…It builds relationships and makes them so much stronger and meaningful. All the new technology available can be great for a lot of things, but I feel that it also causes people to isolate themselves more, which is a shame. When I haven’t had a chance to talk to the people I love for a while, I definitely miss it! This is a great post – thanks for sharing and congrats on being freshly pressed!

    1. Thanks!

      It is so heartening to hear of families like yours who value this. I still — as many of us can — recall conversations from decades ago. I used to visit a dear friend in Paris (I lived then in Toronto; I speak French) and she and I would sit up for hours talking. “On a refait le monde!” we’d laugh the next day; we remade the world. And so we did.

      1. That’s a lovely memory, one I can definitely relate too. I’ve lived in several countries, and I have family and friends all over the world, so those chance moments to catch up on the phone or in person are wonderful. My parents and siblings are in France, where I lived for nearly 11 years (recently moved to the US for my husband’s job), and when I talk with my mom for a long time on skype, she tells me the same thing, in her variation: “maintenant qu’on a refait le monde, il est l’heure d’aller au lit!” since usually it’s quite late for her when she stays up to talk with me. 🙂

  34. I enjoy conversation, especially over a meal or during a walk, but it has to be carefully balanced. Each person should have an equal say and it’s a richer conversation when everyone has something to contribute.

    1. I agree…but some people are just not terribly chatty! They enjoy being with others, but not speaking up or as often. One of the challenges is style — our family is loudly argumentative which scares the hell out of some people and which invigorates others.

  35. The world is always changing. I embrace it. I wish I had caught on earlier. I remember OLDER people being disturbed by our New Math and really everything that was occurring. that seems to be what happens as we age.
    Anyway, I rarely speak unless spoken to. But that’s not because I don’t love to have conversations with people.

  36. I am completely in agreement with you on this. I’m addicted to my computer and my blog. But there is nothing like the sweetness of an intimate face to face conversation with the ones I love. Or my girlfriends. Or my children. Or even complete strangers. I just love to talk. I’ve taught my children that it is important to be able to talk AND to listen. They’re in their 20s now and though they like video games and use computers, they can carry on intelligent conversations. We won’t regret timed miss on the computer. We’ll regret time we didn’t get to to talk to each other, when this life we live is over…..

    1. You’ve nailed it.

      I am in my 50s and now appreciate much more than ever the joy of a face to face conversation — as so many older people become demented and we all die. I so treasure my time in conversation. I learn a lot. I laugh my ass off (thank heaven) and get a sense of perspective on the worst problems…Congrats on raising such great conversationalists!!

  37. I’m going on a 15 hour road trip next week with 3 of my closest friends and I cannot wait! The thought of being stuck in a car for so long is going to drive me crazy but the thought of the conversation and random fun we are going have makes the trip worth it!

    1. You are my kind of person!!!

      My husband and I drive north from NY to Toronto (where I have friends and family) 1-3 times a year and we cannot wait to have so much time alone with one another on that 8-10 hour drive. Have a great time…and save a seat for me?

      1. Do! I love lovelove road trips…My longest (so far) was from Perpignan to Istanbul, 8 days (!) with a French trucker I had never met who spoke no English. We had a blast!

  38. My wife and I have been together 20 years, and still today (this morning, in fact) we sat in a room with the television off and had a conversation for about an hour. It is a common occurrence in our home. When our college student daughters (twins!) are home, I often head to bed early while my wife stays up late sitting in their room laughing and talking.

    It is one of the reasons we are so close as a family, and I firmly believe it is one of the reasons my children are good students and not socially awkward. It is an art to connect with other people and communicate with them. It is a skill to listen and to learn. It isn’t for the meek of heart. It takes concentration, it takes patience. Unfortunately, the times article most likely touched on the growing tendency in our society to be instantly gratified. I know that when I AM online, I am generally browsing more than one site at a time. I think this is more common with the younger generations.

    I just read a blog post this morning by a woman who admitted she couldn’t help herself from checking her social sites, eager for her posts and pictures to be “liked”. She continued to say that she recognizes it is a never ending cycle, without real connection. The art of the conversation helps change all that. My wife and I today were discussing what my best friend (a man) and I discuss in the car on the way to go surfing each Sunday morning. She was surprised to hear how personal the conversations can get. My friend and I have known each other for a long time, and we have many similarities in our lives. We only see each other once a week, so we know the time is precious. The art of the conversation has allowed us to remain so close, even though there is geographical distance between us.

    It isn’t instant gratification necessarily, but our conversations have had lifelong impact. To me, that is more important. I loved this post…thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Thanks for such a long and thoughtful comment! I love hearing this….and what a lovely marriage you have that you and your wife are still enjoying the conversation.

      It is true that listening is not easy and it requires our **undivided** attention. I went out to Google recently to write a NYT story and was skedded to do three interviews in a row (no break) of 30 minutes each. Crazy! Really tiring and difficult for me to put a total stranger at ease and get the stuff I needed so quickly. Let alone 90 minutes of listening!!

      I am firmly convinced that no one should ever reveal themself right away, to anyone. It’s unwise. It takes time to trust one another and to know what someone can handle from us (or not.)

      My husband – after 12 years together — will often tell me something I never knew about him before. This also often happens when we are talking with a third or fourth person.

      1. I agree with the slow reveal. Last year I attended a Foo Fighter’s concert with my best friend (a guys night out), and my wife was amazed to hear that I even liked that band. She had no idea. It was just something that had never come up.

        Now it’s something new we can enjoy together.

        I can’t imagine the concentration it takes to do 90 consecutive minutes of interviews, but it sounds like you persevered. And you’re welcome for the comments, I appreciate the conversation…

      2. The 90 mins. of interviews is nothing I would ever choose for myself….it’s a part of the territory when doing a corporate story where the PR people strictly regulate access and its format. On an ordinary day I don’t like to do more than 3 or 4 interviews at the very most, often 45 minutes, with a good 20 minutes between them. But out on the road, as when I travel for book research, it gets super-intense as I have limited time and resources.

        I actually prefer to have less time…it forces you to get very focused and clear about the story you’re telling.

  39. This makes me wonder if it might be beneficial for my family to institute some “tech free” zones where we try to get away from our electronic connectedness and restore our personal connectedness. I’m not one to eschew technology and the benefits it brings, but we should all reserve a place for those moments when beeping things can’t distract us.

    1. Hell yes!

      I am a very big fan of techno-sabbaths where you do not go NEAR tech. You talk, read, sleep, listen to music, walk outside, play with the dog….unplug and be present.

  40. It is too easy to stay in my office at work and only communicate by email. I have to make an effort to walk to a colleague’s office for in-person conversation, but it’s worth it. It gives me a chance to get to know the people I’m with day in and day out.

    There are few things as satisfying as a good conversation. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone you know or someone you’ve met.

    I may be an introvert, but I suspect my face gives off a ‘talk to me’ vibe because I have frequent interesting conversations with strangers!

    1. I have to say I envy you. I work alone all day every day at home (as a writer) and it is SO lonely and isolating. I miss the ease of having a few friendly colleagues to chat with.

  41. Dedicating this post to the fact that we are so “plugged in” and we are rarely in the present, enjoying someone’s company, is an important thing to post about. To answer your questions: Do you make time in your life now for face to face conversations? I do my best. I do live at least 30 minutes away from town, and an hour to two hours from many of my friends. We squeeze in the time, though and value our time together. Face to face conversations are throughout my day at work and when I’m at home. I MUCH prefer it! Face to face makes all the difference in the world! Think of body language, expressions, tone of voice etc. It is part of being a homo sapien! we are social animals and to solely connect through technology is secluding ourselves, not matter how many messages we may get! Balance is always key.

  42. “Sitting around the table and talking.” One of my favorite things about any gathering with my family. It’s why I value dinnertime, far more than the good food I might be putting out. I can spend HOURS after dinner is done, just talking, arguing (in the best way–since when did we have to AGREE with everyone to have a good conversation)…Sadly, my husband gets antsy. But hey, he married into an Italian family. It’s what we do.

    It’s why I love going to a bar to have dinner alone and chat to my bar neighbors or the bartenders…It’s about conversation.

    Great post.

  43. Great post! I was thinking the same thing when I observed a mother with her son at McDonald’s awhile back. They were sitting together, face to face. The little boy of maybe 7 years sat there eating and staring at his mother who was busy texting/messaging on her phone the entire time. She didn’t look up once or talk to him.

    As I sat there talking/arguing/laughing with my own children, the observation made me kinda sad. It was a missed an opportunity to connect. Even though there was only a table width between them, they seemed very far apart.

    1. I really can’t imagine a parent being that cold to their kid, but it’s now very common. Unless it’s a real emergency, nothing is that important to ignore someone sitting across the table from you.

  44. Anonymous

    It was my grandmother that taught me the art of conversation, and this what we did from the age of three until I moved out of her house at the age of twenty. Even then, I called her often as I missed our conversations about nothing and everything; she passed away in 2004, and since then, about 20 other family and friends who made time for coffee talk have since passed away as well. I am now teaching my young child the art of conversation, and yes, I miss them all, especially my beloved grandmother.

    1. What a lovely gran you had! My Dad is now 83 and we talk pretty often. One of my favorite wedding photos (I remarried last fall) is of me and my Dad deep in conversation (!) about 20 minutes before the service. That’s normal for us.

  45. A thoughtful post, and I wonder if you extend the conversation/communication out of the immediate home and close relationships is it even more lost? I’ve just spent the winter in France and the difference in even acknowledging people is huge, the bonjour etc, here in the UK I think we have even lost the ability or the desire to recognise the person in the same shop, waiting room, seat next to yours on a flight. I spent a lot of time travelling between France/Switzerland and the UK and the difference is palpable. So I’d extend your proposal to include conversation/communication with our neighbours/fellow passengers/fellow inhabitants.

    1. There is very definitely a cultural component to this. I’m Canadian and have lived in NY since 1989…Americans (as you may know) are heavily socialized to be “real friendly” and are forever telling one another to “have a nice day!” I was told for a long time here that I was snobby and cold because in my native culture we are not nearly so eager to yap to strangers….I do it now more easily, but for Britons it may be less “normal.”

      I do love and miss the French tradition of “bonjour madame! au revoir monsieur!” I lived in Paris in 1982, have visited many times and plan to retire there for at least part of the time and look forward to this aspect.

  46. I do not get to have a lot of conversations. And yes. I do miss them. My last boyfriend and I went on our first date… to Borders. We stood in one aisle for four hours talking about each of the books on the shelf that we had read. The conversation was riddled with “OMG me too!” of every title that we chose from the shelf (about 125) there were only 6 or 8 that one of us did not read. It was our second conversation. The relationship lasted just under a year and those were the only real conversations that we had. I am not surprised that we did not last.

    But then I just reconnected in person with a dear friend from high school. We have not seen each other in 25 years. But it was like no time passed at all and we talk all the time. I know that men don’t talk the same way that we do. But they have to tell us something… let us get to know each other. It is no wonder that people don’t feel connected and relationships do not last, our knowing is so limited.

    Just being in the room with someone is not enough. Boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, child, brother, sister, cousin. I found it very easy to walk away from him because I never really got to know him. 20 years ago a one year long relationship ending would have devestated me for months. I think it makes us colder. I am afraid it will make us all a little more jaded too.

    1. Lots to think about here.

      I am now very wary of the “OMG, me too!” initial attraction. My first husband was a perfect fit (on paper) and a catch — A doctor! He plays guitar! He’s handsome! All of our superficial tastes were similar. The he walked out on me within 2 years and was remarried within a year to a co-worker. Yeah, great fit there. 🙂

      My second husband and I are VERY different in many ways and I took 12 years to finally say I do…but we talk easily for hours and he is great company.

      As we say here in NY, go figure.

      1. I’m certainly hoping that the differences are interesting enough to get this one to take the bait. We’ve had some very interesting sputtering starts… like a bad sitcom. But like you say… go figure. 🙂

  47. Thank you for bringing up this topic in a time where the world and our lives are so busy, that we no longer have time to connect and communicate. We need to be reminded. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber – called it, the sacred space between us. That is what communication is for me – sacred space – precious time.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed and thank you for a great post!

    1. Thanks so much.

      You might enjoy (in my archives last July or August) my five posts about an 8-day silent Buddhist retreat I did. Changed my life and made me MUCH more aware of what we say and when it’s trivial — or not.

  48. Yes I agree… we don’t talk as much as we used to. Just last night my husband and I went out to dinner and a family of 3 sat texting and their child in the middle sat looking around. I thought how sad…
    I also live in China and I miss chatting to people. When people try to communicate I don’t understand and I cannot respond. A smile, nod and a few simple words often convery meaning, but lacks the deep conversation and connection we yearn for.
    When people can speak English messages are often broken, disjointed or lost since translations get confused at times.
    My husband and I try to chat a lot. He is home working alone most of the day so he is glad for someone to talk to. I work with kids all day so I want adult conversation and not constant telling what to do…
    He often works away and I am alone so we talk via skype or phone a lot. I think that was why we have such a good relationship…. we talk A LOT! My nickname as a kid was ‘Chatty Cathy’… and I thought I talked a lot until I met my husband. We are a perfect match… it’s amazing either one of us get a word in edgewise!

      1. Yes he is the best 🙂
        Not being able to commuicate is hard, but I think we need to try! Even at home when you understand the language… you have to work at relationships to make them progress, so if that means putting down the phone then so be it!

  49. We made strict “rules ” regarding cell phones, computer time and TV – and it surprised us how quickly we were able to adjust to turning off the devises, it really cuts the stress out of our home life! Great post ….

  50. It is my nature to talk to folks whether they are current friends or future friends. While waiting in line it really passes the time to start conversations with the folks around me. I’ve noticed in recent years it is getting harder to get the conversation going; which might have something to do with how folks are relying on technology to communicate with one another. I enjoy knowing a person too much to stop trying to have person-to-person conversations.

  51. I do not text (it takes waaaaaaay too long to type anything meaningful on my cheap little prepaid phone that has one app – “Dialacall”, lol! I only use it when i’m out (I work at home). I’d much rather call/meet someone and talk anytime! It still drives me nuts to be sitting w/a cpl of friends in a coffeeshop, etc. and have them sitting there playing w/their phones instead of talking w/us who are THERE! I guess I’m just an old fogie from the dark ages as my college kid would probably tell me through her blackberry! Nice article and congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  52. Reblogged this on MyDestiny2011 and commented:
    This is a main issues nowadays. My husband always complains to me that I pay too much attention to my phone :p, and I am facing the same problem whenever I am with my brother -even worst, we sit , we meet but we hardly talk-which really pissed me off :(. But we have to accept that it’s part of life too..hmmm. Thank you for sharing!

  53. I also love road trips especially with my best friend. It’s when we get our best ideas.I think the important part of conversation is the ability to listen – I’m still working hard at that one, and feeling without fixing. I miss nights spent at a dinner table with friends for hours as the topics ebb and flow.Thanks for giving us something to consider.

  54. You left me speechless; That so many years I’ve been spending on wasting my time for the ones I love. I never always have a good chance to sit and talk with my Dad. My father and I seem to not have a good connection each other. We stare a lot. And sometimes, he yells me with no reasons. It’s always been a tough time for me for, like, 15 years.
    I sometimes feel uncomfortable being at home, because that fear that always comes up everytime I open up the door and say “I’m home!” to my dad, but no answers.

    Point is, I was just wondering what my life is going to be like by the time my dad passes away. I love him. I just want to share. Your story’s moving, though.

      1. We live together at one roof. I’ve never had a good chance to, at least, talk or even greet him everytime I got home. It’s just your willing to share your story exhilarates me to share mine.

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  56. I love people and their stories and their different views and cultures! I too, talk to people on the plane and everywhere hahaha. I recently saw a cartoon that featured a man texting on his a phone and a woman sitting across the table from him in a restaurant, presumedly on a date. The woman says to the man, “would you mind if I attach your phone to my forehead and pretend you’re actually looking at me?”

  57. I think technology is changed societies worldwide, I feel this is become the norm in today’s family life in most societies. People find dates online, no person-to-person contact their. I think there’s something about those people that can shake your hand and look you in the eye, give you a hug or that pat on the back. There’s not many left.

  58. Even in our busy life with working, school, and my spare time activities, my family and I always have dinner together. It is a nice time to chat. After dinner, we have coffe and normally sit and talk for a long time. In Norway we use a lot(!!!) of technology, and some people may see us as cold, but this one hour for dinner and real conversations, is magic. Now, being an exchange student in Brazil, I miss talking to them. But in Brazil they have an unique way of conversing. If you are on your way to an appointment and meet a friend or a family member on the way, then the appointment is second priority. Conversations come first!

    1. I like their priorities!

      I was on a fellowship in Paris for 8 months with 28 journalists from 19 countries; the man from Togo was very deeply offended when so many of us rushed around (this in 1982!) and did not make time for long greetings to him. Big cultural difference.

  59. Interesting…I just wrote about something similar on my own blog today….technology claims to connect us and yet we find we’re somehow becoming more and more disconnected…. thanks for the post!

  60. My husband and based our whole beginning on only talking as we lived in two separate countries. Now we treasure the long drives we take on our trips. Sometimes we talk for hours, other time for hours not talking. Along the way we have learned to enjoy the companionship more than anything.

  61. MeNtAlRuNaWaY

    I try and make time to talk face to face with people and friends. Even though I’m at university you think that I would be able to converse with fellow peers face to face but everyone is usually on their phones or laptops!

    Nowadays I find it hard to meet up with friends and talk because of this difference in universities and degrees. No one realises that a Nursing degree can take away ur sosocial life until 3rd year when your always away from campus doing placements at different places.

    Its more the timing of the shifts which make it hard than anything else. We don’t have a choice in where we are placed and the shift times.

    1. Interesting.

      I was in the hospital for three days in February (having a hip replaced) and really appreciated the nurses’ kindness and, when they had any time, conversation. You’re so vulnerable when you’re in the hospital that any kindness is so helpful.

      1. MeNtAlRuNaWaY

        That’s true. I’ve been taught and told by many people to always remember that you are in the presence of people when they are most vulnerable. Therefore I do consider it my role to be as kind and considerate as possible during these such times in hospital =)

        I always enjoy talking to patients when I’m at work or placement.

        But sometimes.. that’s not enough in the sense that we’re limited to certain conversations to keep a balance of information sadly..

  62. Reblogged this on Teacher as Transformer and commented:
    I think this is a truly thought-provoking question. It is possible conversation, like community, is in the midst of being redefined to some extend, but we should be careful we do not lost the sense of intimacy both bring to our lives. I felt a sense of kinship when I read this. Kathy and I, after almost 40 years, try to find time to be together. We have always made time for each other. It is what makes a relationship healthy.

    1. The day a husband and wife fail to make time for one another is a sad one. After (only) 12 years with my (second) husband, I look forward every day to time alone to chat.

  63. I threw out my cell phone once I realized how much vacuous “blah, blah, blah,” I was doing. Technology has turned our society into blah, while promoting a HUGE NEED to be “in touch” all the time. Nobody knows anymore how to deal with uncertainties or their authentic selves, which always are found in the serendipitous moments that life brings.

    Our verbiage is now about making “face to face” time. That is a derivative of technology, which requires real, live human interaction as secondary to its technological precepts.

    Humanity is supposed to be about being with each other. No “scheduling” of such moments should exist.

    Such a sorrow we have forgotten how to function in real time, with real humanity as it shows up in all its curious forms.

    What a waste.

    1. I use my cellphone almost exclusively to read email when I am away from home, to stay on top of my work — I am self-employed and can’t afford to miss a work-related message.

      I did an 8-day silent retreat last summer and found it very healing. It made me very aware of much we say that is totally useless.

      1. Why is “work” your top priority? And why let technology define your “work?”

        You can, at any time, with technology, let people know you are unavailable for certain periods of your life. Boundaries are necessary in human relationships and, when we allow technology to determine those boundaries, we become less human, less real.

      2. Work is not my top priority, but being able to earn the income I need is very much the most important part of my day and my use of technology. Being self-employed in an industry that fired 24,000 writers in one year, in an American recession that will not end and working for rates that are 50% lower than 4 years ago means hustling hard.

        I am all about setting boundaries and am taking the entire month of June for vacation. Can’t wait!

  64. lilbrigs

    If it were up to me, everyone would still write letters to each other. I think that technology is great for keeping in touch with friends that are far away but my god, you need to learn when to put your cell phone down.

  65. theworshipwarriorbride

    Sometimes even small talk works wonders to a stressed person….I also love letters and still love to write plenty of them. I even kept a box containing letters from my Grade 4 classmates up to present. ^_^

  66. Scott

    Reminds me of the old song that goes “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

    We’re communicating, we’re conversing more than ever. But not with the people we’re with at the moment. When my nephews, sister, and brother-in-law come home to visit my parents (and me) in nearby Mobile, Alabama, it can hardly be considered a visit. All four of them walk around constantly with their blackberries and smartphones, conversing with everyone but my parents and me. What’s the point?

    I live alone, and as I write this, I have no guests. But if I did, I wouldn’t be on the Internet at all–I’d be communicating, conversing with my guest. The irony is that so many (perhaps most) of us ignore those who are with us, in person, at the moment–retreating to our cellphones, blackberries, smartphones, ipads, and computers to communicate with those who are not. Perhaps we humans fear face-to-face communication–yet this new technology does nothing to help us face our fear, but everything to help us further hide from it.

    1. With all due respect to your family’s behaviors…have you asked them NOT to do this when they visit you? It’s your home, your rules! I would be utterly appalled by this sort of thing and (being a very direct person) would say how much this bothers me. If they didn’t listen to me, I’d tell them that not listening to me is rude and hurtful. If it really didn’t stop, I would ask them to stay somewhere else (if they’re in your home.) They’re not really there anyway…

      Tech is just another tool. People can still be respectful of one another, or not.

  67. Blood-Ink-Diary

    A very significant read! I thoroughly and completely agree with your thoughts — in fact, I was lamenting to a friend earlier today about face to face conversation and the bliss in connecting. Wonderful and much appreciated your post.
    Keep shining, broadsideblog! Cheers.

  68. My only brother is two years younger than me. We are now studying in the city. Back when we were in our hometown, we did not use to talk much with each other on intimate subjects. But now, things are different. The conversations we have every time I meet him tend to be more and more spontaneous and hearty. We share our own stories, mutual homesickness and the like. It’s such a great feeling when thinking of those heart – to – heart chats. They help us know about each other better and encourage ourselves to move on in life.

  69. letthecrazinessbegin

    I miss the art of conversation. Since having my children, I am not able to get out much and crave adult conversation. I have a friend who comes to visit me and is constantly on her phone texting and going on facebook. It makes me feel insignificant to a point that she cannot give me her full attention for a couple of hours.

    1. Ouch! It’s interesting and very sad to me to read so many comments here that say the same thing — that friends or relatives come to visit but are (?!) unwilling to BE fully present with us and offer you what you are both there for, undivided attention.

      Have you told her how much this is annoying you? What would happen if you simply asked her to STOP it, right now, and not ever do this while visiting you in your home? If she’s a real friend, she is not eager to hurt you or to be rude. If she continues, I’d say she’s not really very much a friend.

  70. Me too, I like meeting new people and talking to them – hearing how their lives are because my life isn’t exactly letting me learn everything that I wish to. My job thankfully allows me to meet new people often enough for fresh conversations. But I like the title – have we lost the art of conversation. Many have. I might be losing it too – and that’s what attracted my attention here today! Thanks for starting the conversation again! 🙂

    1. I love the name of your blog!

      I think we have forgotten that a real conversation IS an art. Listening carefully. Looking for nuance. Sharing views or hammering out a thought or two. It’s a sort of verbal aerobics.

  71. the world as a whole has lost the art of conversation, but i personally make time, every single day to have face to face conversations with all the people that i love in my life…:-D

  72. It’s strange how social media, mobile phones, etc. can get people closer, yet subtly create such a huge divide.In spite of having friends all over the world, some how I never feel distant from any of them because I talk to them on facebook, whatsapp, google chat every now and then. I talk to them as much as my friends who live around! Lately I have noticed, with all our BB messengers, whatsapp etc, friends have actually stopped calling to say hello! You post is assuring in a way that there are a lot many out there who think alike 🙂 Kudos to a great post and congratulations on getting freshly pressed!

  73. Enjoying your blog, and I totally agree with the lost art of conversation. I enjoy a good natter on a daily basis, and I’m even an introvert! I’ve actually just written a post on this topic and how real personal communication is perhaps hindered or even replaced by non-authentic techological communications – such a shame! Check out my post at: http://raggedandrambling.com

  74. Well, first: sorry my poor english (my native language is Spanish).
    Known that, here I come.

    I understand what are you saying because I am totally used to have “face-to-face” meetings with people who is texting all the way. I feel a bit sad about that because I don’t have so much time to share and when it comes, they are texting or waiting for a text.
    I try to meet with some of my little friends (they are two or three really close) and with my boyfriend on weekends. We can spend hours talking, even if the talk is about the sky.
    In other hand, because of this kind of “common poor comunication” I don’t miss it when I can find it. I mean, I can’t miss something I didn’t even enjoy often.
    Because of that, also, I enjoy reading others people’s blogs. As it is yours. I read books I try to find and I read opinions in some pages about.

    Thanks for sharing your point of view and thanks for asking. I like to feel a part of an entry, the feedback.

    See you around.

    1. I have to say this (rant alert) …if children “are numb” they were not born thus! I don’t have kids but I know that parents have tremendous influence over their children’s choices. They set the rules and standards and it’s their job (!!) to make very clear what their principles are. If parents are too lazy to bother teaching their kids to be respectful of others, tech toys or not, they’re shirking their duty.

      I have been fascinated/appalled by the passivity I see here in the face of tech…if someone’s behavior is rude and hurtful, whether they’re waving a fist in your face or a smartphone with which to utterly ignore you, speak up! How else is anyone to be made clearly aware you find it unacceptable? Take a stand. Lose a friend or two. They’re not friends worth having if they refuse to respect your time and space.

  75. I enjoyed your article and it got me thinking that it’s ironic how technology was meant to be used to bring people together and yet, it appears to be a barrier to real communication! I live in Asia and I many people in trains, walking along walkways or sitting in cafes just buried in their smartphones or i-whatevers. We don’t really talk any more, we text or write on ‘walls’. Time to get back to the real art of conversation, a timely reminder!

  76. Certainly there are drawbacks to today’s technology as it interacts with the art of conversation. But there are also many, many positives. I learn a lot by texting with my children and spouse. I think my relationships have been better because of technology. If there is more out there, bring it on.

    1. Interesting.

      I’m not someone who loathes technology and I use it a great deal for work and some of my social life. But when it *replaces* face to face talk and emotional intimacy I’m against it. From the hundreds of comments here, many people are feeling tremendous isolation and frustration when others refuse to unplug, look up and personally engage with them.

      1. Certainly no one should be rude. And if I am F2F with someone, I am engaged with that person and not with anyone else.

        Perhaps it isn’t the art of conversation that is lost, but the art of good manners. For I find texting to b e a very engaging and intimate form of communication – but not when I am in the middle of a F2F conversation. It sounds like the world just needs a renewed focus on communication manners.

  77. Marvs

    Reblogged this on marvcabrera.com and commented:
    I’ve found that if I say what I’m really thinking and feeling, people are more likely to say what they really think and feel. The conversation becomes a real conversation.

    1. Thanks for doing that!

      You make a great point…I’m no fan of idle chitchat and small talk. I had lunch last weekend with a French friend who barreled into the restaurant and began ranting (which I completely enjoyed as someone who has lived in France) about voting in the election and how Sarko was likely to lose. I look for passionate talkers.

  78. SandySays1

    Oh how grateful I am that we canines have elected not to engage in the madness that’s associated with human’s dependency on the “latest gadgit.” Can you see woof texted? How about arf….? Can anyone doubt that humans are their own worst enemy.

  79. I think we have lost the art of hitting the OFF switch on our devices. Being On not only drains the battery of our devices. I find it drains mine as well. I enjoyed reading about your journey. You never know who you are going to meet in this world if you are available and willing to enjoy the present of another and their stories.

    1. I like this. If we are never OFF (and to continue the thought, quite literally recharging) we will burn out entirely. We all need time to rest, reflect, just be still and silent.

  80. Libertas Maximus

    Great post! I have used Facebook and had a smart phone for a while and decided to scrap both of them for this very reason.

    Some say “it’s not Facebooks fault”, or “it’s not your phones fault”, it’s you. And that’s true. But, the Facebook phenomenon, and the smart phone phenomenon is like a vortex that sucks you in. For me and my life, I prefer to have meaningful relationships and meaningful conversations with real people.

    I use a Kyrocera Dura Phone. It has fantastic battery life, it does what it is supposed to do and does it very well. It’s big which prevents me from carrying it everywhere, but if I need it it’s available.

    1. Interesting.

      I was very reluctant indeed to use Facebook and now have 547 friends. It serves three very helpful purposes for me:

      1) I work alone at home all day every day. It is terribly lonely and isolating! I can get a quick laugh or sense of connection then get right back to work
      2) I am a journalist and non-fiction author and always seeking ideas and sources. I’m currently writing a New York Times story sparked by the experience of a FB “friend” I have not yet met face to face
      3) Crowdsourcing! I asked my FB pals for vacation ideas — and am now going to house-sit one of them for 2 weeks. Score!

      1. Libertas Maximus

        Interesting indeed. I had a similar experience.

        I had just moved to Denver from NYC and working out of my home office. I found it very lonely and difficult to meet people as well. By the end of the day, or the middle of the day, I needed to get out of the house while everyone else was finishing for the day, wanting to go home and wind down. UGH! It was a rough year or so.

        That’s where Facebook came in. But, found I still yearned for real, meaningful conversation. I felt like Facebook relationships were, for me unfulfilled, yet somehow functional. Not that Facebook doesn’t have a place, it does.

        My son was telling me a story the other day: He works at a store in the mall and tells me of parents that set their kids up in strollers with Ipods and other such devices to watch tv/cartoons, no doubt. Not that I judge them for what they do or how they raise their kids, just my awareness of the fact. I can see, them going from the tv at home, to the tv on the headrest in the car, to the tv on their stroller. What happens to real life in that case? It sure can’t assist in social skills and conversation.

  81. I loved reading this. I am an awkward person, mostly an introvert until I get to know people well. I enjoy conversations with close friends one-on-one or in small groups. I think I talk with my mom face-to-face the most.

      1. I’ve been astonished by the interest in this post…more than 9,000 views in three days and so many people “liked” it. Clearly we’re not alone in this at all!

  82. I am a very relational person. Love sitting face-to-face with another human being listening to their story, watching their eyes, hearing the inflection in their voice, observing body language – all part of communication. I meet with people a lot; however, there are times when I have to battle with my youngest son for real communication. Just yesterday he complained when I was trying to carry on a conversation with him because I was interrupting his texting. Needless to say, we had a discussion about the art of communication and the importance of putting the mobile device away.

    1. It’s getting very weird out there! It is shocking to me, and sad, that so many children now see human beings as secondary (and annoying.) I would hate to be a teacher these days!

      Good for you for making this clear to him.

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  84. Being a fellow blogger, I sometimes get wrapped up in technological communication. Thank God for Breakfast! A time when my husband and I can just sit and talk to each other.

  85. What a wonderful post – so well said. We watch our kids swimming upstream – limiting television, online, and iPod time for their kids, and realize how each generation communicates a little less intimatey than the last. True communication is difficult enough to start with! We do “device free” camping, kayak, museum or beach days when we can with the grandkids – and their parents! And we also treasure our car time with one another. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. Thanks so much…

      I admire your dedication to real communication with one another. I am happiest when I am nowhere NEAR a computer or cellphone or even have to drive a car.

  86. Thanks for writting this. I totally agree. Over the weekend my husband and I were at the movies and saw some young people walking in texting at the same time paying no attention to anything else as they reached the line we realized they were texting each other! I feed of off conversation as well. I will be following your blog from now on. I ‘d love to have you check out mine as well.

  87. I think this is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece. As a teenager I’m generally expected to be shallow and self centered. This is just a stereotype that society as a whole expects from my age group (not without good reason). Having worlds of technology at my fingertips makes navigating relationships complicated. I’m being raised in a world with technology that didn’t even exist when my parents were young and they have barely had time to grasp everything themselves. For the first time in history, children and teenagers are teaching their parents basic skills on a regular basis…and it’s considered NORMAL. My generation is expected to understand technology and show our parents how to use it. This is creating a huge shift in our interactions, because we are being handed dozens of channels of communication without the guidance to use them with discretion. Thankfully, more and more parents are stepping up and putting limits of their children’s social interactions via technological devices.

    I’ve found that I have a unique way of overcoming the isolation caused by cell phones and facebook. When I want to talk to a friend one-on-one, I’m not afraid to approach them in a group setting and grab their arm and say, “Bro, we need to talk. No distractions. Just you and me, face to face. It’s going down.” and I tow them away from the crowd and we sit and talk about life, family, relationships, God, etc. I receive texts almost every day, saying things like, “Thanks for pulling me aside and sitting me down. I needed some space from the crowd.” or “Thanks for what you said tonight. It really helped.” I feel like my generation has lost touch with the importance of real life conversations. However, with a little boldness, we can take it back.

    1. Love this! You bold little thing!!! 🙂

      I really admire anyone who has the guts and spirit to buck this trend of tech-talk. I bet your friends do indeed really value your commitment to them and to intimacy in this form, especially as it’s now considered (?) counter-cultural to — you know — sit down with someone one-on-one.

      There is no question in my mind that people are — look at this thread!! — very, very hungry for real, authentic care from one another. As I said earlier, I was in the hospital in Feb. for 3 days (hip replacement) and it meant the world to me that two friends made the effort to come all the way to see me and sit at my bedside, even for 15 or 20 minutes. Nothing will ever substitute for this.

      I am turning 55 in June and here’s the reality of this time of life….people are dying, and many of their parents. You MUST go to funerals and wakes and memorial services to show your respect. You cannot fake it or text this stuff!

  88. Found you on Freshly Pressed –Congrats!! Face to face conversation is the best and you have made many great points in your post about the dying art of it. I am guilty of being overly connected with technology and all but I do still value and cherish the face to face interactions. Nothing beats that! I am definitely striving to keep that alive and well in my life!!! Nice to “meet” you!

  89. I love face to face conversation especially with my daughter. It was always an way to discover more about her (I never ever could imagine that two persons may be so different as I am with my daughter), to hear more about her friends, about her interests. I could not ever imagine that after starting this habit – having conversation during our Saturdays – my daughter took everything so seriously that I could not stop. I did not ever intend to stop her, but I was,from time to time, so tired that could not fully follow her..

    Nice post!

    Congrats for FP!

    1. This is lovely, and I hope will encourage (literally) other parents to sit down with their kids. I still relish talking to my Dad (he is now 83, so we don’t have forever to get around to it later.)

    1. Too ironic…Susan Cain’s new best-seller non-fiction work, called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts”. I assumed my seatmate would not wish to be interrupted, but luckily she was fine with it.

  90. Pingback: stone, thought, sober, conversation « Anythings and Nothings

  91. I gladly embrace technological connectivity because without it I’d be lucky to to converse with anyone outside my immediate family more than once or twice a fortnight. I work a croft (a small farm) some miles from the nearest village, so once I see my wife and our boys off in the morning I’m on my own until they return in the late afternoon and early evening.

    I drop in to the store for a few minutes once or twice a fortnight and the feed merchant once a month. My main, verging on only, social occasion is taking our boys to rugby training on Saturdays.

    I like to converse with other people, sharing experiences, ideas and views, but my opportunities to do so face to face are limited to a couple of hours a week. And not that many years ago, I would have had to accept that.

    Now, though, I can come inside for a coffee or a meal, hit the keyboard and converse with family, friends, acquaintances and like-minded people in real time or close to it. Just now, I’m having a coffee between planting out cabbages and feeding pigs—and responding to thought-provoking blog post. If it weren’t for the technology, I wouldn’t be having this moment of welcome human interaction. For me, technology brings me closer to other people than was previously possible.

  92. I feel it’s a theme or frequency we are all on with regards to the breakdown of communication and intimacy in the Facebook generation. I try my best not to get too connected with FB and have a ritual of putting my phone on silent when I’m home. I often have to chastise my partner for leaving her phone under the bed pillow. ‘I’m like what email is that important at 2am, check it in the morning’. Great post!

  93. Shikha

    I like this post very much. I usually have face-to-face with my brother and mother. But they are working, so its not possible for me to have long time conversation with them.

  94. Texting and social media have certainly taken parts of our society experience away. Yes I am able to keep in touch with numerous friends whom I see on occasion but I have no real connection with them other than the lastest video or funny status. I even feel odd when my parents text me about dinner plans or how work is going. People crave social interaction and it has been replaced with artificial means just as processed foods give us the ease of a quick meal. Some of the best times I have are with my best friends; whether in deep conversation or sitting in silence. Having that human contact in person or over the phone, hearing and seeing that person, it fills that gap that is missing from our artificial interactions.

    1. I just had exactly the experience we all most want — I met a friend (who lives in my town and who also, like me, works alone at home all day as a writer) for lunch at a local cafe. I know the owner, because I interviewed him for my book (and have shopped there for years.) On my way out I saw two more friends, one from my dance class and one from my pool aerobics class, and I had not been able to see either of them in person for months since my hip surgery. It was great to see them all and catch up face to face.

  95. I think this post is dead-on! I am especially irritated texting as it relates to me dating again. Now, when I meet men, they want to text me as a way to get to know me. No offense, but most men are not big talkers and communicators, so texting has just given them a “back door” way to talk to you: on their terms. With texting, one can leave a message, walk away from the device and return to the “conversation” as they feel. They don’t have to stay in the moment and “think” their way through. It is terrible! Text should be short blurbs like, “Hey, I’m running late” or “I’ll call you back when I leave the store,” not, “So….tell me what you’re looking for in a mate?” Pick up the *&^%$ phone and call! Thanks for the post, I had to get that off my chest lol

  96. My favorite parts of my day are when I drive my daughter to school in the morning, when I drive her home after school (it’s a 45 minute drive) and when my family is around the dinner table with nothing to do but talk. It’s SO important for our souls (I believe anyway) to put down the phones and ipads and computers and look someone in the eye and converse. Love this post, thank you 🙂

    1. Yay! I love all these stories of parents connecting so well and so consistently with their kids. There is NOTHING more powerful in this world than the undivided attention of someone who loves you, texts and tech be damned.

  97. Pingback: El valor de estar presente… | DETALLES DE UN PERFIL

  98. I can only do the “Art of Conversation” in slow motion. Face-to-face I can get half way through a sentence before I realize that the person is withdrawing her or his attention and indicates that he or she would like to run away. If they(forget the grammar–let it stand for singular, gender neutral) are polite they will feign listening while they develop an escape plan. If they are forthright rude or boldly honest, they will say, “What’s your point” or “How is that relevant to what I was saying?”. [I should say that these experiences occurred before the modern age of the internet]. So, as you can see in this lapse of parenthetical thought, if I don’t edit before speaking or writing my listeners will run away. In person, there’s no redemption, only loss. In text there is a possibility of an artful conversation if I take the time and diligence to compose a witty banter as if I were a screen writer of a spontaneous conversation between intimate friends who look into each others eyes and laugh at each others jokes that make them cry with understanding and lapse into intimate silence and hugs to the fade out where the unsaid consummates. I’ve always wanted a day to speak unedited as if I could ramble into paradise, as if everything I said mattered and could be made into a painting that would be my icon. Look. Hello.

    1. Hmmm.

      It’s hard to leave me speechless but this comment does. I don’t want to be judgmental and suggest that the truth is we all have to show up in person eventually…But thanks for sharing your point of view.

      1. I don’t have a cell phone or other devices. I do approve of conversation. What judgement? I just speak slowly. Not everyone has patience.

      2. I have mixed feelings about this, and you raise an important point about patience. I don’t need or expect people to talk really fast (and hate it when they do) but I do wonder about people who speak very slowly. I suspect that’s my issue to resolve!

      3. When someone says, “How are you?” The quick answer is “Fine.” It’s often best to be dishonest and trivial.”

  99. Pingback: Losing the Art of Conversation « Scott E. Fontenarosa – Computer Mediated Communication

  100. Excellent post. It was a joy to read. I don’t believe we’ve lost the art of conversation because I think with all the technology related communication devices (twitter, texting, email) we’re probably talking MORE than ever. The fact that it is not face to face is troubling though. I’ve found, even with my long term girlfriend, that we can text each other all day, every day, but sometimes when I go to dinner with her she can barely pick her head up from her phone to hold a face to face conversation with me. It’s an interesting phenomenon to say the least. I should hope that social communication never dies, as I too love meeting new people and conversing.

    Great post!

    1. Very kind of you!

      I would be an unkind person if I had someone I was dating who preferred their phone to me. I’d toss the phone into the nearest trash can if necessary to make the point.
      Subtle? Not so much. 🙂

  101. Nastasja

    Yes, excellent entry! Everything we exchange among ourselves is reduced to shortcuts in our language – lol, rofl, lmao, and so on. I even noticed that some of my friends use these “terms” while talking to me in person, which is sometimes very strange.
    Unfortunately people also got lazy when writing online. Sentences are shorter and brought to the simplest forms consisting of only 3 words in all, no one is able to go out and meet people and then chat… Technology takes the place for every social activity. Unfortunately.

  102. lovelikeangels

    I have face-to-face conversations with all the “inner circle” people in my life. However, that inner circle tends to change over time, and as people have slipped out of it, so has our F2F interactions.
    I also try to take as much time as I possibly can when I have family I don’t get to see often visiting (such as from overseas) to see them in person and talk to them in person.
    I naturally/instinctively don’t really enjoy talking on the phone very much, but I am quite comfortable conversing in an online chat/private message setup because I am of the internet age.
    One of my long-time friends and I had a phone conversation about 3 or 4 weeks ago that lasted about an hour and a half, and that was the longest we’d ever talked on the phone, much less in recent times. Since technology has begun to really take over, we’ve been texting for the past few years, but VERY rarely talking on the phone anymore which is kind of amusing because we used to have full-blown phone convos on a regular basis just a few years ago.

  103. This is a very good read.I also enjoy writing and have just recently learned of the blogging thing.. and still learning my way around but I stumbled upon your blog and I have to say, Thank you for posting this. I can relate to you in the sense of enjoying people.. I am not one to spark up random conversations with other individuals, but I am in social settings quite a bit to where there are already conversations going.. which leaves me room to listen intently and ask a lot of questions. I am fascinated with the way each person’s brains work so differently but so much the same too.. I want to learn as much as I can about people and then eventually learn how I can communicate with them to help them in life. 🙂

  104. I’ve “reconnected” with quite a few people since joining Facebook. It wasn’t until I’d been on for several months that I realized I felt connected just by seeing their posts, even when I hadn’t actually picked up a phone to speak with them after 15 years. Conversation takes time I don’t always have, and social technology makes it so much easier to multitask relationships. Sad but true…When you have to start teaching kids it’s not appropriate to break up via text or FB it’s time to take a step back.

  105. I didn’t have time to ready all 300+ responses, so I hope I’m not repeating. I love to have real conversations with people and have had them on planes and the Megabus as well as while waiting n line. What I really detest is the intrusion of “smart”phones into conversation!! Obviously it’s not the phone’s fault, but when I’m sitting with someone specifically to have time talking with them and there on the table is the phone and that person continually checks the phone, maybe texts, I want to take the phone, throw it on the floor and stomp on it! 🙂 No texting while talking…or checking emails during conversations…or whatever else. If it’s friend time, let’s have friend time. Otherwise I have better things to do.

  106. I agree wholeheartedly. In the age of technology, people rarely speak to people face-to-face. People are too busy with texting, gaming, and social networking to chat face-to-face. It is extremely sad and unfortunate. Great article.

  107. stephenisalive

    Are you kidding me! There is absolutely no better joy, no more electric connection, no deeper way to bond, no act more human, no effort more rewarding, no task we are more naturally prepared for, no goal can prioritise over, no coffee can be waisted whilst, no memory more worth holding, no better way to be alive than to talk and talk and tell and talk with someone who knows it too.

    That’s what all this is, after all, literature, blogs, press, paper. A poor substitute for the real thing: Solid Conversation.

    And it’s all there ever can be. A live of many conversations, varying in value and purpose, some restrained, by format.

    Life is only a accumulation of conversations, and those who celebrate it for it’s own sake will have more life.

    I talk about the value of this in detail in my post about the value of privacy stephenis.com

    Stephen Is

    1. I’ll take that heavy, burdensome, award off your hands. I’ll bear this cross for you, on one condition:

      That we make a pact, a bond, a promise, to reward ourselves (in the best way circumstance makes possible) with a real conversation. That before the sun sets on the month of May, two strangers (as we are), talk and talk and tell and talk, uninterruptedly, unhindered, no – holds barred, World-Series, 100% proof conversation – for it’s own sake.

      That when we can no longer claim to be strangers any longer, I will humbly accept this (then earned) award.

      Stephen is.

      1. Hey Savannah,

        Thanks for being so cool, since I mistakenly thought that award was intended for me. Lol what a way to make a proper fool of myself.

        My offer of having a deep chat is of course always there.


        Stephen Is

      2. You are not a fool. Perhaps it is me the fool. Maybe we are all fools! I did nominate you. And it is because I enjoy reading your blog. The writing and content is amazing.

  108. Great Post. I’m a ‘chatter’ myself. My husband and I have been known to sit next to each other with our heads bent over our phones or gadgets, but I always find time to have a proper talk to him.
    Like you, I love the long car trips that give us a chance to really talk. We have a son with ADHD, ODD, Anxiety Disorder and a couple of Autistic traits, so it’s very important that we give him good examples of how people communicate effectively. I wonder if today’s adults moving away from proper face to face conversation has anything to do with the increase in Autism in children? Interesting.

  109. vannessafr

    It’s worse than that. In my recent experience with people I have not seen for a few weeks we can never converse face to face properly because it’s always about Facebook updates and such. Like, when I ask them “so what have you been up to lately?” They always say “what? don’t you know? haven’t you been reading my Facebook updates?”

    So, in other words, even face-to-face is dominated by FB.

    1. OMFG. But so true. I have been (occasionally!) guilty of saying this.

      I was horrified that I found out from my husband (from FB) that a good friend had finally gotten a new job…and had posted it on FB and I’d missed it. Please…She and I had lunch yesterday and I heard all about it, the way one should!

  110. I love conversation but it’s tough when everyone is so busy. It’s something that I subconsciously miss, and when I get it, breathe like fresh air. Conversation is so worth it. It’s that connection with other people.

      1. I know! It’s scary how we’re sliding away from the connection. Sometimes people say that being online prevents connection. I think it can but doesn’t necessarily. Sometimes it helps connection, like when you live far away from family/friends. What do you think about that?

      2. Of course! I love checking on Facebook and hearing back from friends in Austria, Canada, England, New Orleans and many other far-away places. I relish that. BUT I think it’s too often now that people living within an easy drive or visit of one another can’t be bothered anymore.

      3. Skype has been a blessing for me. My best friend is currently living about three states away and we can have tea together and talk, even though we’re in different places. When our younger daughter was in France, we were able to talk almost daily at no cost. Love it! I guess as with many other things, technology can help us or hinder us; our decision much of the time. We have to make deliberate choices about how and when we use it.

      4. I hear you…I have no grudge against technology for linking people living far away from one another. I’m on Facebook a lot with friends all over the world, and glad to be able to do so. I also work, as a writer using tech and social media, with editors and clients I have never met face to face, from Switzerland to Texas.

        My larger point is still the same…when we CAN get together, we should. Too many people sit across a table from one another and ignore each other. That’s messed up!

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  112. Our family rule (and we have four teenagers and a couple of smaller ones in our family) is no texting or talking on the phone at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table, no computers, books or TV. It does help even if we only have a fraction of the family there for the meal. But it’s sad that we had to make a rule to deal with it. I find out what my sister, mother and many friends are up to by using Facebook. On the flip side, I do appreciate being able to contact my children at any time via a text – very reassuring to a parent occasionally stuck in traffic when I should be picking them up!

    I do think that communicating via email, especially over a distance, invokes an atmosphere of middle of the night confidences. Sometimes it is easier to be able to tell your darkest secret when you’re not sitting with the person.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. Thanks!

      You make an interesting point about sharing a confidence and I’m sure that’s very true. I know it happens here with blogging — I’m sure I say stuff here I would hesitate to blurt out conversationally to 1,200 people I don’t know well, if at all!

  113. Alyssa

    Nice topic. Come to think of it, technology has changed some of us. I used to sit on a track ‘n field ground with a friend, just chatting and eating potato chips with a coke in can at night. Now, we talked, just like the old days; chatting and eating potato chips with a coke in can at night… while facing our computer screen…in the world of Facebook. 😛

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  114. Love this post, was actually going to do a similar post. My very new husband and I always do evenings where we don’t have any screens on anywhere… so it’s just us … talking face to face as it should be. It’s brilliant to have faceless conversations if that’s the sort of person you are, but for us, it just wouldn’t work.

    1. Congrats on your new marriage!

      I finally re-married (after 12 years with him) last fall. We still talk to one another a lot. I think it’s essential to a truly happy marriage to listen carefully and be heard.

  115. I live in Montenegro and last week I was working at a boat show where I met a lovely French/Serbian couple. We went for drinks one evening after the show closed. I had been at the boat show all day and wanted to check my email, so after we sat down and ordered I got out my iphone to use the WiFi, the french lady exclaimed, ” Oh no, your not one of those people!” I found myself starting to formulate an excuse and then realized, wow am I? I really don’t want to be “one of those people.” I set my phone down and thanked Cecile for calling me out. We then sat and enjoyed amazing conversation for the next three hours without a moments pause speaking between English, French, and Serbian. I think the art of conversation is alive and well, we just need to put the technology down. Currently I don’t have a phone connected to any network, the first week is weird but now it’s amazing. When people want to get ahold of me they can send me an email, or find my on Skype if I am in a WiFi hotspot. I also live without a TV and I love it. I was guilty of sitting down in front of the TV after a hard day before bed. Now? Now I go on a walk after cleaning up the dinner dishes every evening and I read before bed to unwind. I highly recommend going a month (or more!) without a TV or phone.

    1. J’adore ca! Thanks for sharing such a great story…I lived in Paris on a fellowship with people from 19 nations and I so fondly remember all-night convos in a mix of French and English.

      I lived without a TV all through my 20s and never missed it. Now there is so very little to see (despite cable’s 300+ channels) I often read instead.

  116. mhasegawa

    The other night my husband and I were in a nice neighborhood restaurant – the kind that is not too expensive but has good service, tablecloths etc. We were having a conversation about the day. A woman came in with two girls who looked to be between 10 and 12. They ordered and then each on on a cell and started texting, talking, playing games. What a missed opportunity! They continued while they ate. What does that teach them?

  117. eatinggreener

    “Ironically, she’d just opened and started to read a book about introverts and I figured she’d never want to chat.” This made me smile. I’m a pretty extreme introvert, and while there are certainly times when I really am not in the mood for chit chat, meaningful conversations are a different story. And I find that demands to constantly be “available” and communicating that come with information tech to be exhausting. Deep and meaningful conversations when I meet someone I connect with? Yes, please! Constant interruptions and chatter via mobile, online chat, etc.? No, thanks!.

    Thanks for posting =)

    1. It certainly gave me pause. I figured that an open book and on that topic signaled “No talking!” but we had such a great conversation. We had a lot in common as creative women and it is VERY rare for me to find someone to have a long talk with about all the many challenges that entails.

      I agree with you about constant interruptions. They make me crazy and rude. Once I focus, that’s it!

  118. K. C. Mead

    I similarly talk on the phone with my finace and my mother multiple times throughout the day and then my fiance and I make a point of cooking and having dinner together so that we have at least a two hour time slot dedicated to verbally catching up with each other. I believe this is of incredible importance as our socializing with others is part of what makes our humanity special. All creatures socialize, but we are uniquely gifted in this arena. For those whom I only “keep up with” via Facebook or email, I certainly feel a distinct loss and distance which is not felt (at least so keenly) between those whom I speak with regularly.

    I also make a point of writing letters to people, not simply emails or Facebook messages. This seems to be another form of intimate communication which is quickly becoming lost within our whiz-bang-gotta-be-now communicative culture.

    1. One of the problems with Facebook is that we do not really get to know one another well in three-sentence soundbites. I like that a real friendship needs a lot of talking and listening and spending time together.

  119. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts.

    Ideally myself and my roommate only get a chance to talk to each other only during weekends because of opposite office timings. But, often we wake each other up when we come from office just to share something. There is nothing like sharing something (good or bad) face to face.

    Our Saturday evening tea is so welcoming when we tell each other the stories of entire week. These conversations may not be as frequent (considering that we share same room), but are so precious for us. Its always good to have someone talk to you in person. Online chat or phone can never take its place.

  120. That’s great. I agree with most above. It is definitely the more advanced technology. Video chats, and walkie talkie like phones now a days people do look for that quick response. With texting being the biggest reason, eliminating face to face conversation. These technologies take the experience out of meeting up with someone just to get a drink because information is in so much demand, with technology getting it to our ears faster there’s no need for that meeting. Everything is becoming so fast paced, that there is a lack in conversation. Taking people more time to get to know someone truly, then how it would have been before. You can’t get to know someone through a phone.

    1. I would disagree that you can’t get to know someone by telephone…if it is all you have (and many people date long-distance or have family and friends living very far away) but the ideal, surely, is to spend time in the same place whenever possible.

  121. Because I am married to a deaf man and spend so much time around the deaf, I find these sorts of posts really strange. The deaf have a lot of gatherings. THey have coffee gatherings, birthday gatherings, popcorn gatherings. They almost always come to my parties. My parties consist of mostly deaf with a handful of hearing. So I wonder at these sorts of articles and posts that lament that conversation is dying – even moreso because the deaf use the internet and texting as a primary means of communicating with other deaf. Why is it that we think conversation is dying, when the internet/cell phones, the ability to connect and network have brought us closer to people who are further away? I talk to my friend from Arizona, one I only reconnected with 5 years ago after a 30 year abscence from her life, every day via email. If she doesn’t email, I send her a text message and ask if anything is wrong.

    I don’t think we have lost the art of conversation at all. I think it is evolving, and like all language, we adapt to the new evolution. Technology has done wonderful things for the deaf and their ability to converse, and they embrace it wholeheartedly. Us hearing folk should probably do the same thing.

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  123. I have never carried a cell phone, don’t wear a watch, and keep my internet time to an hour or two per day. I do love to listen, and the stories of the people next to me, where ever I might be, are the signs of the almighty. Thanks for a great post!

  124. Tiffany

    The ability to carry a good conversation is actually quite scare in individuals now. At first we’ve given up coffee dates for long telephone conversations, and now we trade in even phone calls for text marathons. While I do prefer face-to-face conversations, it seems the convenience of technology has put me in a bit of a minority among young adults.

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