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Jessica Yorkin Headshot

The Art of Conversation

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Blackberries, I-phones, laptops... the list of electronic communication devices goes on and on. They're quick and they get the job done, replacing many awkward conversations and endless minutes of monotonous rings. Although text messaging and email are deemed necessary for many business exchanges and casual chats, I've noticed that the age old art of conversation has almost been replaced.

This realization dawned on me when I kept reaching for my cell phone not to make calls, but to send yet another instant message. Was I subconsciously choosing this method of communication because it was easier? The more I thought about it, the more I began to believe that I was avoiding making a direct connection to the person I needed to contact. By opting out of a "voice to voice" type of exchange I couldn't sense tone, reactions and underlying feelings -- all the subtle nuances of genuine conversation. I had fallen into the gadget-trap, the same one which spurred nicknames such as "crackberry" and aided in stunting the growth of burgeoning relationships.

So what does this mean in terms of society? Personally, I think that our reliance on electronics might not be such a good thing. Especially when people begin to freeze during everyday conversation, devoid of the confidence so seamlessly displayed in their witty BBMs. For many, it almost seems as if having a regular chat is a foreign concept-especially when addressing a newer acquaintance instead of a close friend. The way people behave over a wireless connection tends to differ from how they act throughout day to day life. Many times I've felt like I've forged a nice friendship with someone through text messaging, but when I eventually encounter them in between classes or getting coffee, the affinity seems to have evaporated. After all, friendship is built by intimate, shared experiences which form memories. And cold keyboards simply don't compare to true emotional proximity.

What's even stranger is that there's a tacit set of guidelines for when to respond to a facebook post or AIM. If you reply straight off the bat you run the risk of being labeled "over-eager" or "desperate" with too much spare time on your hands. What ever happened to manners? I thought that it was only polite to click send quickly -- just like answering the phone by the third ring.

And I know that I'm not the only one who at times chooses the written word instead of actual talk. As a teenager I see it everywhere; obsessive texting, thumbs whizzing across miniature keypads, phones whipped out during dinnertime -- while driving -- even eighth period history class. As of 2010, the average teen sends and receives over 50 messages per day while the number for girls alone levels out to be around eighty to a hundred.

So next time you get the urge to use a keypad instead of your voice, try switching it up a little and redirecting your impulse. I don't know about you but I definitely don't want to keep expressing my emotions with emoticons. You owe it to yourself to take part in raw, natural, "give and take" conversation at least a few times per day. Because the more we indulge in this convenient process, the more we unintentionally toss our social skills aside to wither away into mush. It's not like we mean to do this to ourselves; it's an unavoidable consequence that the more you disregard a skill, the more your ability to perform it worsens.

Just as Kurt Vonnegut so accurately stated in Cat's Cradle, "People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say."

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