Texting Trumps Talking in 2012

I am a very communicative person by nature. I’m one of those people who truly enjoys striking up a conversation with a stranger, whether it be in a store, an elevator, or a dentist’s waiting room. Over the years I have gotten to know the maintenance staff at my school quite well and we’ve discussed everything from their grandkids to their culture and cuisine. I somehow feel better going about my day if I have spoken to someone new and have had some good times over the years commiserating with anxious people awaiting root canals. Conversation has a way of easing concerns and bringing a bit of levity to an otherwise nerve-wracking situation.

Knowing myself well and understanding my penchant for meeting new people and making small talk, I looked forward to taking my grandson to his appointment at the orhtodontist last week. After all, what is more fun than talking about your grandchildren? At any rate, we entered the waiting room, which was state of the art, a huge, open area. It came equipped with a coffee bar, all flavors of Keurig, no less, tables and chairs, and even arcade type machines for younger siblings. Not one to turn down coffee, I poured myself a cup, sat down and proceeded to observe those waiting with me. As I surveyed the scene, it struck me how different the ambience was from that of years ago when I took my own children to the orthodontist. There were about 30 people in this room; mothers with laptops perched on their knees, children at the arcade games, mothers, dads and teens texting or playing on their I Phones. What struck me most was the SILENCE. No one was talking…No one was engaged with his or her child. No one was reading a book (I know, it was a silly thought). One mother DID attempt to engage her teenage son. She sat right next to him and while texting, leaned over to him a couple of times to ask a question or perhaps to initiate conversation. He mumbled a one word response and never once looked up from his phone. Finally, she gave up the idea and went back to texting. I watched as they both seemed to text in unison, mother and son, not sharing their day.

I couldn’t help but remember times when my two sons and I sat in a dentist’s waiting room and had great conversations. When they were younger we would play word games until we were called into the office and had successfully postponed anxiety for a time. We’d play Hangman or I See Something That You Don’t See..but none of the little tykes in this waiting room were going to be satisfied with that..They were into working the arcade machine.

I continued to watch these mothers hone their fine motor skills on their phones and I wanted to tell them that life was going by. I’m sure their kids had things they’d like to share. Or maybe that desire is no longer one that youth no longer has.

Now, before I belabor this topic anymore, let me say that I am definitely for technology. I keep my cell phone at my side, I text and I’m at my laptop a lot. I see the great value of our technological advances. Yet this so-called way of facilitating communication has somehow managed to take away from it. Oral communication has definitely suffered. I still wince a bit when I hear well-educated anchors struggling with perfect tenses, though that matters little in the big scheme of things. More importantly, we’re just not as friendly as we used to be. We don’t lend support or encouragement to strangers as we once did.

I had a long time to mull all this over that day at the orthodontist. I sat in silence for a half hour sipping my Keurig. No one even looked my way. I suppose it all boils down to the fact that texting trumps talking in 2012. But if anyone wants to call or converse over coffee, just call me.

6 thoughts on “Texting Trumps Talking in 2012”

  1. This could have been written about my mother! She to had the gift of gab! She would strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and know their life story and never know their name! Her front porch was the neighborhood hangout! She would spend hours sitting in her rocking chair on the porch with a glass of iced tea and book that she would gladly put down to have a good chat with whoever wondered over. And she truley cared about all of them and their families and they her. I am guilty of texting too much but I also love a good conversation with anyone. I get so irritated at my nephews if I call them and they don’t answer but text right back. Thank you for writing this and giving me happy thoughts of my mom!

    1. Heather…my Aunt Kate lived in a home where the front porch was close to the sidewalk. She would sit out there all summer with her coffee, book, and cigarettes and do just what you describe your mother doing. Back in the 50s that was a common sight all over Greenfield. The front porch was everyone’s living room in the summer. Air conditioning put an end to that. When was the last time you actually witnessed someone sitting on their front porch?

  2. Nancy, I’m one of those who love to talk and meet new people and I feel your pain. One of my favorite pass times is to sit on a fishing pier along the coast and engage in conversation with other nearby fisherman. When you’re fishing you have no opportunity to play with a smart phone, your hands are already busy with baiting a hook, tying a knot, etc. Plus, from the get go you and the others have something in common, fishing. The natural opener is, “Anything biting?” No one can resist replying to that question. “Damn, you should have seen the one that got away!”

    1. Larry,
      I’ve bet you’ve met many a colorful character at the fishing pier. You are right, there is already an established camaraderie and a common topic. I bet it’s great fun.

      1. I’ve sat and talked to old black men who told me of surviving in the South during the Jim Crow era. I’ve had conversations with Cuban immigrants who told stories about coming to America atop a bunch of truck inner tubes strapped together or anything else that floated. An Asian woman who taught me a ton about catching fish from piers. A lady in Central Florida who owns a carry-out, bbq joint, and a beach house on the Gulf Coast and loves to fish. She told me I’d have to bait my own hook but she’d take the fish off for me! Can’t do any of that with your attention glued to a smart phone!

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