The world needs more bantering and less bitching.
That’s the point I tried to convey in a post I wrote last week. In continuing along the lines of people and communication, I’d like to share an article that I read this weekend in The New York Times titled “The flight From Conversation." The article starts with the following:
“WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.”
Sacrificing conversation for mere connections – what a powerful observation.
(I can imagine hearing someone using this line when lamenting the desire that folks had to feel their small towns and move to the “big” city to be where all the action was at the time.)
My day job is all about technology and making digital connections. I have a first-hand view of what the author is talking about, and I agree with her observations. Today’s kids are coming of age in a world where connectedness trumps the more complex and nuanced elements of a personal relationship. It’s one of the reasons that I keep a tight leash on how my children experience technology and the role it comes to play in their young lives.
While I agree with the sentiment of the article, I am by no means against technology or gadgets that make connecting with others easier. I love them. However, I know they’re nothing more than a tool. A layer of usefulness that should only exist on top of real personal relationships.
So how do you know if a relationship is real and not just a digital connection?
Ask yourself, “Would you have any reservations about sitting down with the person, one-on-one, for a few hours over a few glasses of bourbon?”
If the answer is ‘yes – I have some reservations’ it’s nothing more than a connection. If the answer is ‘no – I don’t have any reservations’ it has the potential to be more than just a connection. Only by actually sitting down and having that conversation will you remove any doubt and confirm that a real personal relationship exists*.
The article ends with the following advice, “So I say, look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation.”
I want to add that if you can’t continue the conversation you’ve started over a drink (preferably bourbon), you might want to put your efforts elsewhere. I’ll bring in one of my favorite quotes from James Arthur Crumley (October 12, 1939 – September 17, 2008) to explain.
“Son, never trust a man who doesn’t drink because he’s probably a self-righteous sort, a man who thinks he knows right from wrong all the time. Some of them are good men, but in the name of goodness, they cause most of the suffering in the world. They’re the judges, the meddlers. And, son, never trust a man who drinks but refuses to get drunk. They’re usually afraid of something deep down inside, either that they’re a coward or a fool or mean and violent. You can’t trust a man who’s afraid of himself. But sometimes, son, you can trust a man who occasionally kneels before a toilet. The chances are that he is learning something about humility and his natural human foolishness, about how to survive himself. It’s damned hard for a man to take himself too seriously when he’s heaving his guts into a dirty toilet bowl.”
~James Arthur Crumley
The Wrong Case (1975)
*For those who would like to argue that real relationships can exist without meeting someone in person, please understand that I agree. Sitting down and conversing can happen in person or over the phone. The point is to have real engagement with another person – a conversation or banter – that isn’t limited to 140 characters or what you had for breakfast this morning.