What We Lose When We Lose The Ability to Talk Face-to-Face
Rarely do I write columns or articles in the first person. I was told at a very young age it reeks of an inability to connect, or as my remarkable (and narcoleptic) high school English teacher Gordy Glover put it, “if you have to use the first person to make me understand your point, I’m going to ask you to never write anything for me.” (Paraphrased). However, sometimes you have to write in the first person. Gordy Glover knew this. He was old school. Told you the good news and the bad news right to your face. He understood the importance of person-to-person, face-to-face interaction. All the information in life, from words and tone to facial gestures and mannerisms, can only be discovered if you are talking directly to somebody. It is why I revel at the sound of a Facetime ring, and brood at the shrilling scream of a telephone jingle. But with the advent of smartphones and in particular social media, we have completely lost the ability to connect to the people right in front of our faces. Instead of trying to solve that issue, we are actively trying to make it easier to simply not talk directly to somebody’s face. Easier to tell them something that might
I completely understand the compulsion to go this route; confrontation is usually a bad thing, but it is also a necessary evil. Part of the issue is the vast majority of people see all confrontation as an evil
Hey @Uber , not to sound mean but you should add an option when you order a car that says you want driver to talk or just want it quiet. Some people just want to chill. And some clients want to chat. But it should be a choice. I think ppl would like that— David Spade (@DavidSpade) December 15, 2018
My initial reaction was, “can’t you just tell them you’re tired and don’t want to talk? Is it really that hard?” I was heartened to see the first several responses were from experienced Uber drivers saying they read the passenger and go off of their vibe. Cool. That works too. But as I continued to scroll there were far too many people (passengers) who said it was a good idea, as well as Uber drivers who bemoaned their existence for having to answer the same questions day in and day out. These are all people voluntarily engaging in a face-to-face, person-to-person service, complaining about the need to interact with other humans. Just talk! Tell them to their face. They will not have their feelings hurt, and if they do, WHO CARES?!?! YOU ARE NEVER SEEING THAT PERSON AGAIN ANYWAYS!
This fear of possibly harming somebody else’s feelings is seeping into every face-to-face interaction we have left. You cannot talk to somebody without fear of confrontation. That is why so many of us stick with the friends we have had for years: we know their histories, we know their allegiances, and most importantly, we know what does and does not get them riled up (for me, everything). But now, instead of talking to a stranger, for fear we insult them, we avoid directly speaking to someone’s face. If we must communicate with them, we do it behind the screen of a phone, tablet or computer (and yes, I get the irony of me bitching while using a computer).
I love talking. It is easily one of my top three favorite things to do in life (much to the everlasting dismay of my siblings). Part of the reason I love talking is it allows me to interact with people I normally otherwise would never meet. Every person is a story. It is why I love sports broadcasting so much. I find it to be the modern day (sports) equivalent of the old fabler. I get to go out and tell the story of the game while telling the story of (like 2% most games) the athletes participating.
Most sports broadcasters feel the same way (and if you are in the camp that most sports broadcasters/announcers suck, it is probably because you would NEVER sit in a bar listening to them tell a story, but that is a column for a different day). People want to listen to stories. However, now we get our stories like we get out fast food; quick and seemingly filling, but after a half hour you either want more or are feeling sick. Stories used to be heard in person. Now we are too spread out, and 2018 necessitates getting our stories in impersonal media: Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube being the most prominent.
Instead of trying to rein in these more impersonal methods, we are shying away from everyday face-to-face contact. We no longer want to see, hear, or (heaven forbid) discuss anything with anyone that might displease them. So now our Uber/Lyft drivers, PEOPLE YOU SEND FOR TO COME TO WHEREVER IN THE WORLD YOU HAPPEN TO BE AT THAT MOMENT, are inconveniences. We live in the most convenient, prosperous, and free moment of history. However, that is not enough for us.
We want to do away with anything that causes us discomfort. We want the freedom to choose who we do and do not interact with. And if we must interact, we do not want to talk with that person… that other… that is encroaching on our freedom. But if we continue down this road, we will find as our freedoms grow, our ability to enjoy them will lessen. Suicide and depression are skyrocketing in the United States. Our willingness to talk with others, to see the look on their faces as we do, is declining. I do not think those two things are coincidental.
Our freedom to choose what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, is no freedom at all. While the freedoms grow we all turn inward. We are the modern day hermits, but instead of secluding ourselves with a Bible to find all the answers, we lock ourselves in a one-on-one conversation with our media to free ourselves from the restraints of personal interaction. To me, that sounds less like the ultimate freedom and more like a personal prison.