Monday, March 14, 2011

Screens and Faces: The Lost Art of Conversation

So I finally got my first smart phone this week. I know I know, I’m behind. WAY behind. I always have been when it comes to technology, and not out of ignorance, but by choice. Why? Because I love face-to-face conversations and technology always seemed to be this sharp ax that just slowly but surely chipped away at human interaction.

I once had e-mail on my phone in college and I found myself looking down at my phone while walking from class to class. And I’d reply back to e-mails while sitting and waiting for class to start. Everyone else was doing this too, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal.

But then I kind of realized that instead I could have been talking to people. I started to get lonely and realized I wasn’t making much effort to socialize (effort that must be made especially if you are a commuter college student) and got the internet taken off my phone.

And it did help. I was focused on my surroundings more. I had time to think, to ponder, to marinate ideas. And I talked more. To people. Face to face.

Speaking of face, I just watched The Social Network (which is fantastic) this week so I’ve been thinking a lot about Facebook and all the ways technology does connect us. For example I’ve reunited with old best friends from 2nd grade and have found through the ebb and flow of Facebook identity sharing that we’d probably still be best friends if we hadn’t moved away.

Through the internet I’ve learned and researched thousands of new concepts and ideas, have been led to meet with inspiring people, and have had the opportunity to share my own thoughts through this blog.

I could go on and on about all of the ways technology serves our human connections. But when that technology is attached to our bodies via our phones, it has great potential to hinder the focus we have during a conversation with another person.

I’m sure like me you probably talk to people every single day and your eyes are not literally glued to your phone. However, how many times have you been talking with someone and that little ding of a text makes your eyes shift from their face to your screen? How many times do you think you could have gotten into an incredible conversation but it was diverted due to that technological pull? 

I know it has happened to me.

And while I’m sure like me you talk to people every day, how often do you have an actual conversation? An uninterrupted time where you sit face-to-face with someone and simply talk, share your ideas, share your lives, laugh, and uncover some new treasure of knowledge from that person’s experience?

During my spring break I had the opportunity (and the time) to rediscover the power and the magic of these kinds of conversations. They renewed my spirit and unleashed fresh motivation, desire, and a hunger for more human connection.

So this morning’s blog is dedicated to those people who turned off their phones and had a conversation with me. Those people who made this week one of the best of my life. Those people who shared themselves.

My challenge to you this week is to turn off your phone once in a while and make time to just talk with people. And be sure to listen too. Nothing will ever replace the art of face-to-face human connection, and the more and more our world advances technologically (and it happens fast…I was at the mall this week and saw for the first time the huge production that is lining up at the Mac store for the latest and greatest) the more of an effort we will have to make to not lose this vital aspect of who we are.

Conversation elevates, inspires, motivates, develops, and changes us. And college is one of the most important times to have these conversations. But don’t ever stop.

Because every conversation will often lead to an important lesson, idea, or a connection that will inspire. Below are some of the lessons and epiphanies I had during some of my favorite conversations this week:

*Sometimes the nicest people really do get the success they deserve; a positive, friendly, and humble attitude really does go far (Convo with Ashley McCormick, the most amazing photographer in the world).

*There are people out there who have passion to create community in places where there is none. Who want to bring art and music and gardening and sustainability to people who don’t seem to care. People who instinctively know that middle school students who are “bad” should not be locked in a room all day. People who give the guy at Panera her cup so he won’t have to waste another one. It’s all about passion, belief, and simple, small, daily change. That is where greatness comes from (Convo with Valerie, my middle school and high school best friend).

*It’s never too late to start a new adventure, and why not create a business from what you love? (Convos with Rose and my Mom).

*Jump even if you are afraid (Convo with the 13-year-old Canadian boy we met zip lining).

*Meeting successful young women is truly inspiring. Especially when they are incredibly gracious and despite their busy and demanding schedule make you feel like you are the most important person in the world. It’s almost impossible to find good role models in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture. I found one this week. (Convo with Kristin Harmel, incredible author and reporter – find and read her amazing books here!)

*Failure is the only path to success. If you aren’t failing then you must not be trying hard enough. And the only way to reach your ideal is to give your all wherever you are. And remember that when you are young and fresh out of college you probably will be an intern or an assistant or some “low” job on the totem poll. Embrace it and make the most of it because those who do will be those for whom doors of opportunity will open (Convo with Creative Manager who has worked with Paul McCartney and Ringo Star).

These nuggets of wisdom and inspiration have fueled me this week. And they all started with two people sitting down (sometimes with a cup of coffee, a cake pop, or a delicious dirty chai tea - thanks for that discovery Val) and talking – without interruptions.

Try it this week. Invite someone to hang out via Facebook or text right now. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about him/her, about yourself, and about the world. 

Exchange ideas. Exchange kindness. Exchange words. And above all, listen deeply.  

1 comment:

  1. Isa, you are too kind! I had such a wonderful time with you and I really enjoyed our conversation. I love this post, it truly speaks to young people these days. Face to face conversation is so much more important and valuable than anything done through the internet. The connections you make with people talking to them in person (or on the phone) create much stronger bonds than any text or email could. Making those connections is imperative to a successful career (and life!), and I worry that because our generation is so saturated with technology, that real, personal connections are going to disappear. I am so proud of you that you are doing this to help others. Helping other people will only let you go further in life. I cannot wait to see what you do next!


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