Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Talk To Me

We all know that the impact of ever changing technology is having a dynamic impact on how we relate to one another.  The contradictions are glaring.  We are supposed to be closer to one another than ever, but the reverse is often true.  People walk around tethered to their phones sneaking looks at the small screen.  They often walk into things, lose concentration, and probably most significant of all, don't relate to other people.  They drive around with personal soundtracks booming, sometimes with earphones on blaring something else into ears assaulted with multi rhythms.  I was once reminded by a student who seemed disconnected, "we can do more than one ting at a time."  So can I but is that always a good thing to do?
Out of all tis came the comment from a friend the other day about a sports team from a high school traveling on a bus.  The driver had remarked how quiet his passengers were, and that was only recently the case.  Connected to phones, I Pads and ear buds leaves little time for conversation.  I've noticed, too how every time the media shows a professional sports team arriving for a game the players emerge plugged into something.
Is face to face conversation threatened these days?  Apparently so.  Recent studies suggest we engage in live face to face (face2face) conversations increasingly less than ever.  What are the consequences for a culture when we speak only through text message, email or phone?  Do we speak differently, alter our speech in inflection and content?  What about our ability to focus on another person and actively listen?
This bus ride thing got me thinking.  If young athletes traveling to a venue don't really talk to each other like they once did, what was it like on a team bus20 or 30 or even 50 years ago?  Minor league baseball teams are famous for 12-15 hour bus rides.  Imagine taking one of those trips in the late 40s or early 50s?  What went on for 12 hours?  A quick bit of research yielded an idea of what that must have been like.  Players traveling from Minnesota to Colorado or California to Washington or even across the state of Texas (nine hours from El Paso to East Texas) My guess is that the did two things more than anything else.  Aside from sleep, they played a lot of cards.  So where does that leave conversation?  Probably baseball was high on the list.  They must have talked about their own stats. their opponents, the various cities they rolled through and their opponents.  Then on to the big league players and their dreams and goals of making it to the big time.  Since we are talking about mostly 20 something young men, probably a portion of the conversation had to do with their love lives or lack thereof. In the days of the Negro League, it's a good bet that they talked about their treatment.  Which cities were better for players of color.  What the "Green Book" said about places to stay or eat, or which places to avoid.
 I'll keep looking at this because it's not impossible that they regularly talked about other things, things that seem to go undiscussed these days.
A colleague of mine once suggested that one reason kids were often too talkative in a classroom was that they were rarely in an environment where the TV or other media weren't constantly on, so that when such distractions were not present, they made up for lost time.  Plausible.  At least they are talking...It's what we do with that talk that can make a difference because it looks like opportunities for one on one conversation are dwindling.  Who will we be then?

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