The closer you are, the farther you get

Technology has changed everything, hasn’t it? It’s made life easier.
We can browse so quickly. Research doesn’t mean a day long trip to the library. Entertainment is a touch away. Some would also say it’s made communication easier, isn’t it?

Wrong.

Oh yes, in terms of quantity, yes communication is much easier. We can talk to so many people, all over the world at the same time. Yes, in terms of speed, we have never communicated faster. Look at this blog. Once I’m done, I just need to post it and thousands of you can read this blog (ok, not thousand. I only have so many followers. Say, tens.) instantly. But I have a bone to pick with the quality of our conversations. Has it been enhanced by technology? I don’t think so.

The other day, I met this friend of mine after a long time. We were surprised, and he immediately gave me a quick handshake and asked, “What’s up?”
I said, “Nothing much man…”

…….

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We had no idea what to talk about. Some half hearted attempts were made to carry the conversation. It happily died when I spotted my classmate waiting for me at the end of the station platform.

It’s quite a common thing nowadays. People don’t know how to hold or carry a conversation. We’re so used to having an interesting forward message to talk about, or having a smiley to avoid giving a reply that in real life, we’re lost. Really, are you going to stick out your tongue because you don’t know how to respond?

It’s even worse when you meet strangers. There’s an awkward handshake, an awkward smile and a lot of intense observation into the world around us. Of course, there is some conversation. Small chit chat about the whether or the new movie that’s out. But it fizzles just like butter in a frying pan. And this is not a good sign for humankind.

An episode of The Big Bang Theory comes to mind right now. Amy and the boys are at Sheldon’s apartment for dinner, and everyone except Amy is staring intently into the phone. Amy stares for a while, and then says, “Can we all keep our phones and have an actual conversation?”
Sheldon replies, “We can, but thanks to Steve Jobs, we don’t have to.”

There are stories of people shifting into texting mode when they are right next to each other. And they end up texting each other! Some may call this evolution, but I don’t see how not being able to have a real conversation is making us “better”.

What can we do?

Well, I have a small challenge for you. Spend one day without your phone. Completely. It could be a weekend too, but just keep the phone under lock and key and spend your day without it. See what happens, see how desperate you will become for some real human contact (and don’t you dare say, “We could, but thanks to Steve Jobs, we don’t have to).
Next, I want you to have a 5 minute conversation face to face with a person everyday, without you both getting distracted at all. By distractions, I do mean the phone. But I also mean other people. If someone comes to interrupt, politely refuse to engage with them and continue your conversation. Give no heed to anything other than that conversation you are having. I’ve been trying to do this every week at my Toastmasters meeting, and I feel much better knowing I managed to talk to 2 people properly, rather than having unfinished, scattered conversations with 10 people. Also, it deepens your conversation and as a result, your relationship with that person.

Technology today has given us a way to bridge distances virtually. This will truly be beneficial only if we not let this virtual bridge come in the way of real, existing bridges.

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