Someday, I’ll Have a Conversation

Someday, I’ll Have a Conversation

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology … But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

A recent article in The New York Times“The Flight from Conversation” – examines the role that technology and all the little devices we carry around and use to communicate with others are playing in changing the way we interact, relate and “connect” (or not) to one another. The article makes the point that:

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.

It also shares that:

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

Someday … I’d like to learn to have a conversation.

Just yesterday Tom was on Facebook and sent a birthday greeting to a relative with whom he only communicates with via Facebook or twice a year at holidays.  Michael and Tom have talked often about how we find it fascinating that people wish each other “Happy Birthday” even though they have virtually no other communication with one another the rest of the year.  There seems to be a superficiality to so many of our human relationships.

The fact is that most of us appreciate technology. We value the things it can do for us, the ease and speed with which we can communicate, the ready information we can gain from it. But we, also, value communication and connection on a face-to-face, personal and deeper level. It’s virtually impossible to have a real conversation, one in which we can see into another’s eyes, view another’s body language or feel another’s presence in an email, through a text, on Facebook or even on the phone. We need conversations with one another in the presence of one another to really, truly guage one another’s heart and soul. It’s as simple as that. Too often we sacrifice that kind of conversation – that deeper connection – for speed and efficiency, as well as for keeping others away:

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right.

With every new advance in technology – the radio, television, the computer, the smart phone – we gain something of great value. But we lose something of greater value, too. We lose more and more of the ability to connect on a human, more personal level. We erode the deeper connections we need.

And we allow to slip away the very real relationships we need to sustain our spirits and to nurture our souls with conversations that help us to grow in joy, in hope, in peace and in love.

Let us never forget how to balance our great technological innovations with our greater need for connections of substance and significance.
Both of us have tried very hard, and we believe successfully so, at creating an environment of initmacy and deeper connections with our families, our friends and with each other.  We talk on the phone every day if we can’t see each other face-to-face.  But our conversations are not just the “Hi, how are you?, What’s new?” or “How was your day?” that we so often hear out there.  We are also very intentional about family mealtimes and taking days off to be restored and renewed and about spending time with our families away from other distractions, about making certain that we schedule regular phone canversations with people in our lives whom we cannot see regularly face-to-face.  We realize how vital it is to foster and maintain relationships of depth, of meaning and of significance.  Mere texts, Facebook posts and quick emails simply do not foster that kind of intimacy or depth.  Nurturing those types of relationships reqires us to create space for them free of time constraints, to be good listeners, to ask deeper, more thought-provoking questions and to make these kinds of realtionships a priority. 
It takes effort, time and intention.  But all of that is worth it in the infinite ways that are lives are enhanced and enriched.


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