There will come a time when I will tell my grandchildren all about that old, back in the bronze age, tradition of conversation. Yes, there was a time when we as humans used to stand facing each other and actually talk. We would talk about the weather, sport or anything really that would fill in the silence. I will tell my grandkids all this in 140 characters or less because that’s all that twitter will allow me, I could use Facebook and if I wanted to be called ‘ancient’ or ‘totally uncool’ I’ll just text them.
Next time you are in a restaurant, have a look around the room. Watch the teenagers especially, heads down staring at the screens of their phones. They are typing furiously, scrolling and pressing the screen, with seemingly plenty to say. Ask them, ‘how are things?’ and you’ll get the customary, one word response of ‘grand’. If they could place their order by twitter, they most certainly would. Actually speaking to the waiter or waitress must be such a pain.
This is not just reserved for teenagers however. Adults too are starting to lose themselves in this cyber world. Why bother relaying a story that ‘so and so’ told you? When you can just ‘like’ it or ‘retweet’ it. Family members that are in the one house have been known to tweet each other. The art of communication is being lost rapidly, hiding behind screens is so much easier than actually having to speak to someone.
The old tradition of going to the local for a pint and a chat, God forbid, on your own and even worse with no arrangements in place for a prearranged meeting, is well and truly dead. Try and strike up a conversation with a stranger in a pub these days and you will be greeted with a look of astonishment. You can see in their face what they are thinking. ‘What the hell, does this guy want from me?’ With one word answers, your efforts at actually having a chat are rejected and the awkward silence that follows will leave you retreating to sit in a corner on your own. You know that when the person you had tried to converse with turns back to the bar, they are mouthing the word ‘weirdo’ to the barman.
So, where does all this leave us in the future? It’s something that we are just going to have to accept. We are going to have to stop asking people simple questions like ‘how did your holidays go?’ Inevitably the answer will be, ‘I actually wrote all about it on my blog, you can read about it there’. Conversations with real living people is a thing of the past. The future is in smart phones for not so smart people. The least important function of the phone is to make a call, internet access is now a must and the faster the better. The day of small talk is at an end, you can check in regularly now with the ‘friends’ that you’ve never met and the ‘followers’ that make you feel like a cult leader. Don’t ask about the weather either because there are numerous apps for that. I for one will be trying to maintain simple old fashioned conversation and if you would like to chat with me I’m @fergalcantwell on twitter, deep conversations of 140 characters or less are very welcome.