When I started interning this summer, I had a surreal experience. I arrived at the enormous office building 35 minutes before I was supposed to -- I have no sense of time, so I always err on the be early side -- so I went to Starbucks down the street. I, being the cool, mature intern I am, ordered a super grown-up hot chocolate ("But please not too hot! Like honestly pretend I'm six and make it whatever temperature you would make it for a six-year-old") and sat down.
Much to my surprise, other than the whir of the milk-foamer machine (I'm sure that's the technical term for it) and the sound of names and orders being called out, the room was absolutely silent. No one was talking. Why? Well, I soon realized that people were talking... Just not in the traditional sense. Everyone in there, other than the frantic barista, was on his or her phone.
So, naturally, I took out my phone, too. Three rounds of scramble with friends later, I looked up to find someone sitting next to me on the couch. He was looking down, eyes glued to his phone, and yet he was two feet away and I hadn't even noticed he had sat down!
Assessing him, and deciding that he was non-threatening (and that if he were I could probably outrun him), I did the scariest thing I have ever done. I put down my phone, and in a tiny voice (that even still carried because the whole room was dead-silent) said, "Oh... hey. I'm Mikaela."
He looked up and smiled. "Hi! I'm Carter. Wow, I've been coming here every morning for two years and no one has ever actually talked to me. Do you work around here?"
And that, my friends, was when I realized that I have been living my life all wrong. Carter is awesome. He taught himself to play the guitar and works at a non-profit that helps children. He is scuba certified and one day wants to sail around the world, but first he needs to learn how to sail. He is a self-professed Ravenclaw although everyone says he would be a Hufflepuff, and I would have never learned any of this if I hadn't just looked up from my stupid, smart phone and said hello.
And I wouldn't have looked up from my phone and said hi if I hadn't found out about Speak Easy. Speak Easy is a student project designed by some rad interns at Mullen, an ad agency in Boston who are setting out on a humble yet challenging mission: to get people to talk to each other. Like, face to face. (In the interest of full disclosure, one of the rad interns is my brother, but the project is so cool I couldn't help but write about it regardless.)
The point is, Speak Easy's mission is a good one, and it's totally relevant to teenagers like us. I am always on my phone (unless I'm driving, Mom, I promise!), but maybe I would meet more cool people if I weren't. Social media and constant, instant contact may be making the world smaller, but I think it's also pushing us apart.
In the words of Speak Easy, "People are interesting, why not talk to each other instead of hiding in our cell phone bubbles?"
Amen to that.
Check out Speak Easy's website to learn more about their project, and if you want to learn more about me, come find me at a coffee shop. No, seriously.