It’s time to take David Cain’s advice and “talk like we used to.”
I was invited to a backyard jazz concert this week. People sat in lawn chairs while the seven-piece band played from the deck. Music washed over us for hours as the sun went down. It filled the entire neighborhood, causing cars to slow down as they drove past and people to congregate on the sidewalk, wondering about the source of this incredible show in our small town.
At one point in the evening, the band started to play The Girl from Ipanema and I reached for my phone. I was overcome with a desire to capture the moment, to record this interpretation of one of my favorite pieces of music, but my husband stopped me with a look. “Don’t do it! Just enjoy it.” Reluctantly, I dropped my hand and sat back. I focused intently on the entire piece, wanting to imprint it on my mind forever.
Our interaction made me realize how often I reach for my phone in an effort to (a) immortalize experiences (that, let’s be honest, are not nearly as special as that performance), and (b) share them with others. This realization made me uncomfortable. I dislike being around people who are constantly filming their everyday lives and posting it to social media, and yet I realize that I do it more than I should.
When I came across a recent blog post by David Cain, titled “Let’s Talk Like We Used To,” it got me thinking about how significantly human communication has changed in just a few years and how those changes aren’t necessarily for the better. Some aspects of modern connectivity are great, like being able to connect in a busy public space, navigate when lost, text or email a quick message.
But at the same time, we’re losing the ability – and even the willingness, I’d say – to interact with people on a deeper, more focused level. We’re so concerned with crafting an online persona, uploading photos and videos to support that persona, and carrying on superficial screen-based interactions with people that we’re failing to forge and build meaningful human relationships.
“Let’s talk like we used to” was Cain’s rallying cry to return to the blogging style of ten years ago, when people wrote stuff just for the fun of it and hoped others could relate, without worrying about page views and search engine optimization.
I interpret the phrase literally. We need to start looking each other in the eye, sitting across from each other at a table without distractions, using our voices to speak, rather than our fingers, spending more time in a friend’s presence than scrolling through Instagram stories.
And so, I’m going to make some changes to my own actions. I will prioritize phone calls over texts, because every time I do it, I feel so much better (and it takes less time). I will start leaving my phone at home when I go out, or leaving it in my bag without checking it. I will stop putting it on the table, even if it’s face-down. I will try not to look at my phone when my kids are around. I will check email once a day. I will strive to practice ‘digital silence’ on my personal social media accounts; this is the act of observing without contributing to the noisy online world.
That’s what I did in the backyard that night. In that moment, “let’s talk like we used to” meant putting down the phone and listening to the jazz band as if it were the last time I’d ever hear The Girl from Ipanema, and who cares if the rest of the world would never know just how exquisite it was? I do because I was there, sitting with my husband, watching the sunset, and paying closer attention than I have in a long time.
Put down the phone. Soak in real life.
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