Saturday, 16 January 2016

Smart Conversation

The art of conversation is slowly dying.

The only people who are currently keeping it active are those above a certain age, like me, who like to have a good old fashioned conversation (or a “chinwag”) with one or more people in pleasant surroundings such as a restaurant, pub of coffee shop.

However, there are a certain group of people (to whom I shall refer as the youth of today) who prefer other means of communication.

I am referring to the smartphone.

Actually, it’s not just the youth of today – some people my age are equally guilty of this crime against humanity.

Picture the scene:

Mrs PM and I walk into a pub and approach the bar. After ordering our drinks we find a seat and chat to each other about our day at work, next year’s holiday plans, what a great guy I am and how lucky she is to have me – you know the kind of thing.

On the table next to us are three people all with drinks who obviously know each other. None of them are talking to each other. Instead, each one of them has a smartphone in their hand and each one of them is doing something like:

(1) Surfing the internet looking at crazy You Tube videos

(2) Posting their status in Facebook (“I’m having a great time with Kate and Paul in The Blue Hippo and am just about to quaff a pint of Old Skunkwarbler”)

(3) Posting their status on Twitter (“Drnkng Old Skunkwarbler with m8s in pub – LOL - #Drunkasskunk)

(4) Texting other friends who aren’t there (“CU L8er @BlueHippo – wot’s ur eta?”)

We sat there watching them and nobody spoke until one of them ran out of beer and asked whose round it was.

A more extreme case occurred in my own house. I was with Mrs PM, my son and his girlfriend. Mrs PM and I were watching TV and the kids were busy typing on their phones. Suddenly, my lad’s phone chirped – he had received a text message. That text message was from his girlfriend who was sitting a yard away and had texted him asking for a drink.

We like his girlfriend a lot and I have told her that she can help herself to anything in my house (apart from my beer of course!) – and usually she does.

Even my lad was surprised.

He turned to her and said “Get your own drink!”

“What?” I said incredulously. “Have you just texted him to ask for a drink?”

“Yes,” she confessed.

As you can imagine, my soapbox came out and I started ranting about how smartphones are turning people into robotic ignoramuses and that the logical evolutionary conclusion will be that people eventually forget how to speak, only able to communicate with grunts and superfast typing on their devices with their oversized thumbs.

“Ignore him,” said my lad as he got up to fulfil his girlfriend’s request. “He’s old!

“Don’t tell me you’re actually going to get her a drink?” I said.

“Shut up!” shouted Mrs PM, bringing my rant to an abrupt end. My lad and his girlfriend just laughed (as they usually do).

I have now banned the use of phones when I am out with Mrs PM and my immediate family and their girlfriends unless they receive an important text or a phone call.

Actually, that’s another thing. People these days communicate by text instead of ringing each other up. If you want to have a serious chat with somebody or arrange something you cannot do it with a text that is written in the stupid abbreviated slangy language, known as text speak.

You can achieve so much in a five minute conversation. If you text to each other it takes hours to do this, and in my case most of that time is taken trying to decipher the idiotic language that’s used.

Does the following really make sense?


What this means is

“Oh my God! Are you OK? Your boyfriend is a dick, if you know what I mean. There are tears in my eyes. Talk to you later. Hugs and kisses. Kate.”

Actually, she won’t “talk to you later” because she will send you a tweet, post you a message on Facebook or text you.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a technophile who LOVES my smartphone. The difference between me and the youth of today is that I use my phone for learning Spanish, navigating, receiving emails, reading, taking photos, checking the weather, measuring my walking distance and speed, organising my calendar, watching TV via Google Chromecast, converting currencies, translating from English to other languages and vice versa, checking the time, storing useful information, brain training, simulating a torch, reading the news, posting photos on Instagram, checking the names of actors in films, learning other subjects, identifying songs, checking the latest gigs, recording voice notes and looking at You Tube videos.

I hasten to add that I only do this when I am on my own and not when I am in the company of one or more people.

I use my phone in a pub, for example, when Mrs PM has gone to the toilet and I am on my own waiting for her to return. If I am with several people, my phone stays in my pocket.

And that’s the way it should be.

I don’t want the art of conversation to die. While social media has revolutionised communication, it should not be used to communicate with people who are in the same room as you.

People need to talk to each other.

It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, rant over.

I’ve got to go. Mrs PM has just texted me to tell me to start cooking dinner because her favourite television programme is on.

Bloody smartphones!!!


joeh said...

You are so correct, I think best summed up by a quote from my favorite movie ever, "Inherit the Wind."

Henry Drummond: Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there's a man who sits behind a counter and says, "All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat.
Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline."

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Joeh,

Summed up nicely.




Grace said...

So right! I don't understand texting but then I am even older than you. You've got a phone in your hand - call. In the 80's I could have used a smartphone and internet and email - I led a busy complicated life. Now? Pfft...

Elephant's Child said...

Love joeh's comment.
And don't get me started on emoticons. What is wrong with real emotion. Your own, not the one that someone says you should express.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Grace,

My life is busy - but not to busy to talk to people. My phone is a device I use but not as a conversation substitute.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Me too. And emoticons - GRRRR!! That is a subject for another post!




River said...

A couple of points:
I agree people should talk to each other the way they used to, it's much more civil. But, I'm completely hopeless at conversation, not knowing what on earth to say, so either rabbit on too loud about something completely out of context, or parroting something I read in a newspaper that may or may not be relevant to the current topic.

A five minute phone conversation may be better, but with a pre-paid plan is far more expensive than a half hour text fest, also with a text message there is no possibility of misunderstanding because I haven't heard properly. And the texter usually knows I may not have my phone always in my hand, so they're happy to wait for a reply.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I am sure that if you and I met to have a chat over a cup of coffee, we would be fine.




jeremy said...

I am with you PM. At times I've been in conversation with someone who is more interested by text messages. I stop talking and they don't even notice! Now I don't bother talking to someone who has a phone in view, unless it is on the phone :-)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jeremy,

I've actually been tempted to walk away from them to see if they notice.

One day I will ...




Mrs PM said...

I prefer texting as you know but mainly to arrange to meet up. Hate getting phone calls as they are always at an inconvenient time and I have to pretend to be nice lol!

Plastic Mancunian said...

So you pretend to be nice when I ring up?

I'll remember that!



Big D said...

I get mocked for refusing to carry a mobile phone. I think I'm doing the right thing, personally.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Big D,

They have their uses - sadly making phone calls is way down he list.




Drb said...

I think it rude when people started to check their phone in the cinema/theatretheatre, during meeting or having a coffee/meal with me. I will tell the person off.
However, I do prefer texting to calling on a mobile phone because I actually get a headache when speaking to the phone for more than 2 mins, and I hate the earphones.
I refused to have a smartphone, because I despise the people who are constantly checking their phone.
My Nokia is much smaller and lighter than a smartphone, and I only need to charge the battery once a week.

I do believe brain tumoura are the rise, as a outcome of excessive mobile phone usage.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

I tell people off too and to be honest I only text when I am meeting somebody.

I used to have one of those Nokias but the smartphone gives me the internet when on the move - which is too good to give up.