the art of conversation…where on earth has it gone?

cityhippyfarmgirl

Sitting on the bus I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was different. Slowly looking around me I suddenly realised, the bus had an energy. It was animated in here, there were people acting like, well real people.

Not signed into their electronic devices like my usual bus rides. Faces staring into tiny lit screens as a bus load of robot clones would.

No. On this bus ride, there was a wonderful vibrancy. There was life.

People were reading paper paged books (I know!) they were talking, a toddler gently traced circles on a window as his mother lovingly leaned into him. The kiss that she placed carefully at the back of his neck, going completely unnoticed as he was so intent on the passing view.

There was a man who had almost given into sleep. As the bus would lean into the corners, so would his body. Swaying just a little further than it should, only to lurch back instinctively, wake him slightly and then for him to fall again into that sleepy warm air bus slump.

There were conversations, a couple kissed, others looked out windows and simply mused on a passing world. Not one person held a digital device in their hands.

I patted my bag with my phone inside rather contentedly and perhaps a little smugly. I don’t need you phone, there is life happening all around me and I intend to soak up every little bit of it.

Weeks later on another journey, again on a bus I wasn’t quite so smug. I had succumbed to the phone, and was using the seated time to read an article I had wanted to during the week. I wasn’t updating a facebook status or doing a bus ride selfie. I was reading an article on suicide prevention and mental illness, so in my head I had rationalised the use of my phone. In my head I was smugly using it justifiably.

It was 8pm and dark outside, while I usually didn’t, tonight I was. Completely absorbed in what my phone had to offer. I didn’t notice the young teenaged boy sit next me. I was aware of him sure, but not enough to even raise my head a little. I had my phone you see.

Do you like the Roosters or Rabbitohs?

Eh?? Oh that’s directed to me?

Err, neither…I replied.

Oh…. Bulldogs or Eels? He quizzed.

Um, no not those either sorry.

Any league team? He asked with slight edge of desperation.

No, not really… (my phone gets discretely shoved into my bag at this stage.)

Any sport? he asks, a little deflated now.

Um… I like soccer? I offer

Great, what team? He says with a little spark again in his eye.

Socceroos? I say.

Yeah, me too! We both seem relieved.

Sitting in silence for a bit and I discretely check out his friends who are standing in the bus aisle. They weren’t dressed like juvenile delinquents, they didn’t look high, didn’t smell or act like they’d been drinking and weren’t graffiting the seats while distracting the other bus riders with idle chit chat. I felt like it was my turn to deliver on the conversation front now.

So where are you all going?

Just up to the local park, he said happily, and again we sat quietly.

A little further on and the bus stopped. The stop was his one and the group of friends tumbled out the back doors, into the early evening. As my teen conversation starter got up to go he said politely, have a good night, it was really nice talking to you.

You too mate, you too… my voice trailed off after him as the doors shut.

My brain was a little confused. I wasn’t quite sure of the last time a fourteen year old boy had voluntarily talked to me in a public spot. Not since I was fourteen myself I suspected.

cityhippyfarmgirl

I got off the bus a few stops later, and patted my silenced phone inside my bag. Yep, still there, I hadn’t been unknowingly pick pocketed. I also hadn’t seemed to be the subject of some odd childhood prank, been filmed and uploaded to youtube.

What I had instead was a tiny conversation that had completely thrown me and to be honest, had made my day. While throwing me and at the same time making me happy, in some ways it also made me a little sad. This was our reality now, instead of a conversation on a bus with a young stranger being a normal thing, it was now such an oddity and something to be scrutinised.

As I walked the rest of the way home, I couldn’t help but wonder. What on earth had happened, to the simple art of conversation?

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33 thoughts on “the art of conversation…where on earth has it gone?

  1. Brydie I loved reading this. I speed-read a lot of blog posts nowadays (so, so many to get through!) but yours are consistently the ones I stick with from first to last word. You’re a top notch writer lady! What a sweet, chatty 14-year old boy; considering that’s the age when boys often enter ‘the cave’, usually with their phones…

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  2. Its seems a lot of people are talking about this problem but no one is actually doing anything about it. I have been making a concerted effort to not have my head in my phone while in the presence of others but like you I succumb to reading a blog entry at times. The best thing I do is leave it in the car. Or turn it off.

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  3. My mother is famous for getting off the train with three people’s email addresses, a recipe and an offer to introduce someone’s daughter to someone else’s nephew, no matter where she is; and I have to say I used to be more likely to be hiding in a corner reading or similar, but recently I’ve been chatting to more strangers, even on planes on work trips where it’s practically a rule that you ignore your neighbours, so I’ll probably end up the same 🙂

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  4. A great piece and food for thought Brydie. I often converse with strangers and sadly these days I’m often met with puzzled looks and an air of suspicion. It will be a sad day indeed when we lose the art of conversation and small talk entirely – personally I’m doing my best to ensure that day never comes!

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  5. When I got to the part about the teenager talking to you I got stupidity teary. That small gesture, a random conversation with a stranger really touched me. Maybe it’s because I have a 14 year old boy & I know they aren’t big talkers at this age. Maybe it’s because I just love talking to strangers but whatever the reason I just loved this x

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  6. Couldn’t agree more with all of this Brydie, beautifully written as usual. When I am out & about I try to make an effort to not be constantly glued to my phone. If not making conversation with strangers I sometimes like to just be with my coffee/in a queue or waiting for whatever. Just ‘being’ rather being completely distracted by my phone. Happy Sunday x

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    • Just “being” is the best bit I think Jane. As a mum of three rather boisterous children, a chance of just being in the moment and taking it all in rather than always head counting and avoiding disaster at any given moment is a lovely luxury.

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  7. I don’t use a mobile phone except to make phone calls, and that is almost never. I find it incredible that people of all ages need to have one clutched in their hand at all times. How did this suddenly become necessary?

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  8. I don’t own a mobile phone and have no desire to – and I have watched the world around me change as people become more and more dependent on theirs. They may help friends stay connected, but so many other connections – to nature, to strangers, to the moment – are missed. I miss riding the buses and trains in the city, and we always make a point of doing it when we visit. I picked up a hitchhiker on my way home from a neighbouring town last weekend and learned a whole lot about someone else’s world on that 30km ride home. But on our last visit to the city I received strange looks when I smiled or tried to chat with the other parents at the playground. So sad. Glad to hear there is a city dweller out there keeping the art of conversation alive! x

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    • Alison I love that you don’t have one. Amazed and love it.
      This city of mine, I don’t find particularly welcoming for engaging conversations with strangers. I don’t know why. Are people just too busy, too rushed…Too out of practice?
      (Just thinking…I wonder if I should set myself a challenge to find more conversations….maybe it’s me, and I’ve not been open enough to them.)

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  9. I see this sort of thing in our tiny shop. Newcomers or strangers might come in holding a phone but it’s usually discreetly slipped into a pocket or bag after a few minutes in our shop. We always greet people (as we would at home), we always exchange a few pleasantries (as we would at home) then we leave people to browse at their leisure but, inevitably, they have a question …

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  10. Isn’t it sad that this is the exception and not the norm. We were in a restaurant recently and I couldn’t believe how many couples sat there looking at their phones instead of talking to each other. All this phone checking is particularly irritating for people like me who have a terrible habit of listening to snippets of other people’s conversations.

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  11. There are silver linings and pitfalls to everything. Social media may have turned a nation of people into mindless drones but it has also opened up a world of conversation and hope to many people who are unable to leave their homes, disabled people and the elderly. Social media and the rise of the mobile/iPad seems to be the new junk food. Everyone is eating at “Apple” these days and no-one it thinking about their mental waist bands. Like anything else technological, we need to work out what is great about it and what is not. When conversation or simple interaction is removed because we are glued to a small screen, maybe it is time to turn off the device. Glad you had a chat with a teenager. They are most interesting creatures aren’t they, and not so very different to when “we” were teenagers 😉

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  12. It’s so true that today everyone has their heads in their phones. I think you did really well to manage some conversation with a 14-year old male – it’s been my experience that they mostly just grunt xx

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  13. Very moving piece. My daughter sent me the link. The power of chance exchanges, huh? I think it might shake us all up a bit to realize that there are many kinds of communication and, that, far from improving communication, there are times when our communication devices form a barrier between us and the “others” around us, who so often enrich our experience of life. Use it or lose it. It is so true. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  14. We were at a restaurant and they had a sign that said “We don’t have wifi, talk to each other!”. Because I am as guilty as anyone of clutching my phone and looking at it over a meal. I try not to be though and try to be in the moment but sometimes…

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  15. It’s such a different world now. It is rare to be on asny bus or in a restaurant or standing anywhere and actually talk to someone these days. In fact sometimes because we are texting we forget we have no acttually spoken to someone in person at all,

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  16. What an awesome post Brydie! 🙂 I am unfortunately SUPER guilty of being a total phone clutcher (not a word I know), non communicator. The other night my dinner companions offered $100 to not touch my phone for 1hr and actually communicate. I did it, but dang it was difficult.
    Love that the 14yr initiated the convo on the bus, almost unheard of, I think I would have been just like you patting to check I hadnt been secretly robbed. And isn’t that a worry my first instinct would be that. Great post, I am off for a brew with some mates and I’m not bringing my phone. #challengeexcepted

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