Monday, August 17, 2009


What is happening to the art of conversation? With 140 character limitations, witty--or not so witty--status updates, and text messaging, it seems like we're all trying to outdo each other in who can say the most with the fewest words.

This style of writing, which essentially is our voice, is rewarded by RTs, comments, and the "Bob Smith likes this" acceptance system, so I feel like we're being conditioned into shortening our thoughts and the way we express ourselves.

Some of you are thinking, "...and this is a bad thing?"

It's fine for online communication, but for face-to-face I feel like people are generally losing their ability to carry on an interesting convo.

How we communicate online is starting to bleed over to how we communicate in "real" life. Speaking in soundbites, referencing online resources instead of trying to explain something yourself, and just generally cutting back on the playfulness of language is starting to bother me. I feel like people think they're "talking too long" or think "why should I say more when this person can just go look it up online..."

I know some people are long winded and you wish they'd get cut off at 140 characters, but that's another conversation.

If you're talking to me, then please say more. Unless you truly don't know what the F you're talking about, then don't take the easy road by cutting yourself off and telling me to Google something. Use your brain. Dig that petrified info out of your head and try to express your thoughts, ideas, and opinions about x, y, & z. I won't get mad or think you're an idiot if you say something wrong or that doesn't make sense. In fact, mistakes while speaking usually turn into inside jokes and who doesn't love an inside joke!?!?

One of the best examples of this is my best friend telling me to write a book that wins a "grammy". Even better was the time she meant to say tentacles and said testicles--the context of that conversation really heightened the humor!

This post is about missing long, rambling--but entertaining--conversations that start off discussing Maslow's hierarchy of needs and end with a story about how you went streaking after a Green Day concert. You're not sure how you got there, but the journey from topic A to Z is all that matters. No one broke the flow to verify info online or to check how many comments they got on their latest status update.

Now don't get me wrong. I love how we can communicate online and enjoy the sassy updates and tweets just as much as anyone else. But I am missing REAL conversations, intellectual stimulation, pondering hypothetical situations, and just flat out LMAO moments with other people IN PERSON (not at a computer screen).

I've always been the type of person who likes to hang out 1-on-1 with others, mainly because I've always felt its the best way to really talk and get to know another person. I enjoy going out in groups, but its definitely more difficult to get into deep conversations in that setting unless you "break off" from the others and try to converse on the side.

My favorite thing to do with friends has always been to get a cup of coffee/dinner/drinks and just talk...

Now it's like we're all these hyper communicators who are tweeting, updating, talking, commenting, texting and checking email simultaneously because it's so damn important to let everyone know exactly what you're doing and thinking every minute of the day. Because if you don't then...what?

I really try to put the cell phone down when I'm with other people so I can just "be in the moment" and get back to the basics of human interaction: to share, react, & connect. Fundamentally, that's what all these social sites aim to do. But I've been noticing that the way people write and present themselves online is not always inline with how they speak and present themselves in person!


I think it's because we're becoming so dependent on written words/thoughts/ideas and having extra time to put together what we express that we're struggling with just speaking off the top of our heads!

What do you think?


  1. I couldn't agree more.
    My friends and I used to get together and just talk for hours on end. We'd discuss everything and nothing until night turned to morning.
    I was never a big fan of crowds, one on one feels like such special quality time.
    Those are some of my favorite memories. Sadly, those nights don't really seem to happen anymore. Friends have gotten busy with life- starting families, consumed by work, meeting new friends. The long, chatty nights are now quick notes that begin with an "@" symbol.
    Sure, Twitter and texts and whatnot are great for keeping up to date with friends who've drifted, but I'd prefer that the need wasn't there.
    I'd love some more talk nights.

  2. Great post, Leah. I couldn't agree more. As a lover of the written word, it concerns me that this is where it's going. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy the lost connections I've regained through FB and the quick updates on how they've been. But these little snippets of info don't even compare to the fun times I shared with them in person. You just can't get that kind of enjoyment from a one-sentence post followed by a one-sentence comment back. It's sad how few words people actually say to each other anymore. But what gets me the most are the people that post such short or odd "status updates" that you don't even know what they mean! What's the point of that?! If you're going to tell me what you're doing, then just say it. Don't just post a word, like "butterflies" or "buzz". It's absurd! I'd much rather see a post that says "I'm eating lunch at X restaurant today. Come join me." And what are we teaching our kids about communication? Mine have learned to have phone conversations and write letters to relatives and friends, so I will hold off on allowing them to text, tweet or have an FB wall for as long as I can! ~Tamie Spears

  3. Agree wholeheartedly with the post. That said, I think it's partially the result of all the aspects of virtual social networking, not just Twitter posts or Facebook status messages.

    One thing I've been thinking about of late is how bittersweet the whole social networking thing is. On the one hand, it allows us to maintain some form of contact with people who we otherwise would have totally lost contact with. We know details about these people's lives, we can keep up with them in some form. It also allows people like me who are terrible with remembering names to have a pretty good crutch.

    On the other hand, it also serves as a reminder that we don't really know these people anymore. For example, reconnecting on Facebook with some of my old teammates, etc., has been a little sad for me, simply because it's a reminder of how long it's been since I spent any time with them, how I don't even really know them anymore despite all the time we spent together not too long ago. (Then again, I wouldn't know about a "reunion game" a bunch of guys are going to this fall if it weren't for Facebook, either.)

    And for the people I do keep up with regularly, the fact that I have a Twitter, a FB account, and two blogs means that a large share of what we would otherwise talk about has already been "purged" from my system. I already put the work into communicating in some form and might actually feel a little irritated that I have to repeat myself (feeling as though I might be wasting time) when they could have just read my blog, for example. You probably know what I mean; when you go back to Toledo, for example, and your good friends don't know what you've been up to (despite your videos, blog, etc., you probably feel exactly the same mixture of emotions/thoughts -- and also a little of the guilt for thinking they should be following you more closely).

    Before social networking, it was more necessary to talk with other people, because there was no expectation that they would have kept up with one's thoughts online. Now, because of our virtual relationships, it's harder to maintain our real ones in some ways.

    That said, it doesn't have to affect our communication in a negative sense entirely. For one, we should drop the sense that repeating what we've already posted is a waste of time -- it's not a waste, because now we're actually able to share it with someone else in dialogue rather than simply spouting it in monologue. Secondly, we can use what we (and others) have posted as launching pads for what we do talk about -- when we are a little more up to date, we can get into more detail on these things.

  4. Nephew -

    Very well put, you mentioned a few things that were swimming around in my head but didn't quite make it in my rant last night! Definitely agree with the "its not a waste of time" to talk about the things we've already written/posted/tweeted about as a dialogue...all good points to consider.

    Tami -

    I think it's great that your kids still handwrite letters and have phone conversations - both strong skills to have in addition to learning all the online forms of communication!

    Jacob -

    I miss those late night convos, too! They always seemed to get more ridiculous the later it got and "slap happy" kicked in :)

  5. I could converse with you about this subject for...oh, maybe 99 hours. I think all these new forms of communication serve the purpose that "prayers" once did. We put out to the universe our thoughts with our internal prayer conversation. Then we read the online and texting responses with that same voice in our head. Resulting in feeling as though our "texts have been answered". The frustration with finding someone like you who appreciates how conversations are the highest form of communication is that you are a rare commodity. Now if you want a Leah conversation you have to move to New York City, take a number, and wait for the next opening. I am a fan of iChat because it is the closest way to stay face-to-face connected. So I took my number, 37, and am waiting for our next conversation. No matter what happens to you in NYC or Rocketboom, please keep these weekly reflection coming.

  6. Now you got me trying to think of something good to say... dag gumb

  7. Great article that goes right along with what I am saying here. Check it out! WSJ

  8. Hi

    I don't know how the "social" (in the sense of socialization) life there across the ocean is going on. Over here at least, there is a problem with that. Leah said that she enjoys one-to-one conversations, I guess everybody does. But now, if I meet someone new and interesting, who I can speak to about anything far from reality shows, there comes the point: if it's a guy (i'm a guy) he automatically thinks you're gay, so no chance to meet him to have a beer or something (unless you and the guy are actually gay); if it's a girl, she automatically thinks you want something "else", so again you have no chance. Maybe this wasn't the case 10 years ago, I just don't remember...

    Now I gave up, I just meet my German colleagues and let them talk about work, so at least we're productive and Merkel will be happy :-D