It amazes me sometimes how much we’re able to “connect” to each other yet, somehow, we can’t find ways to communicate to one another. We can Facebook message, tweet each other, reply back and forth and yet the conversation rarely goes much beyond that. Older generations tend to make fun of their younger counterparts for having “phone parties”, where everyone gets together and checks their phones, but if you look around, very few of us are actually connecting like we’re made to believe.
Many of these social media apps pitch the idea of how their program helps lubricate the social fiction and make it easier to stay in touch but is that really true? Or are they used to replace human face-to-face interactions and making us lazier and lazier to talk to each other?
It’s astonishing to see how rare it is to have good conversations with strangers and sometimes, even friends. I’m known for starting conversations with random strangers and befriending the work staff everywhere I go. Meeting new people and friends of friends are always an amazing adventure for me! Often times, I get so lost in the conversation: getting to know them, learning about their story, and somewhere in the middle of our talk, they’ll usually take a step back and point out how surprise they are to have told me so much about themselves seeing that we’ve only met thirty minutes ago.
I’ve always been a curious person. Always wanting to understand how things work, how people come to be, how we crossed paths, and where are we headed. That’s one of the reasons why I love meeting strangers and learning as much as I can in the short amount of time I have with them. You never know who you’ll meet and what their story’s all about.
Just last night, on my bus ride back from New York City, a stranger sat next to me on the bus, a cute one at that, and we started a three-hour conversation. It all started with a nice gesture, accepting his request to sit next to me (which I think is always nice, even though I have no right to reject him since it is public transportation) and my offering of my casino credit ticket that I wasn’t going to use. He smirked and said, “we’re friends already” and the conversation took off. We talked everything from his job as an aerospace engineer to my previous work experience in AC to the future of 3-D printing to analyzing what your future career goals are and how it reflects our psychological desires: him to feel needed and important and me, to want to help others and take on “projects”. The conversation went on and on as we continue to get to know each other. It wasn’t until I dropped him off after we reached the city that we introduced ourselves and got each others’ name.
That was probably the best part. The fact that we talked to each other because a good conversation is rare to come by. We simply only wanted to get to know each other, share funny experiences and our observations of each other. It wasn’t to hook up or network. It wasn’t to use each other for any other purpose other than to learn about this interesting person that we probably wouldn’t have had a chance to get to know under any other circumstance.
It honestly is sad to admit that good conversations are hard to come by today. Interestingly enough, I didn’t notice the change in this social dynamic until someone pointed it out. It was brought to my attention by a guy I dated back in college. I will never forget this moment:
We were driving in his car and he told me how much he liked me. Of course being a girl raised to feel insecure and doubtful of one’s significance, I asked him ‘why? why did you like me?’. He turned to me and said, “because I can talk to you. You’re smart and can actually hold a conversation”. I was almost taken back with disbelief. I countered his point by pointing out that anyone can hold a conversation. “It’s not that hard”, I said! He took his eyes of the road and looked at me, “you’ll be surprised. Most girls can’t hold a conversation like you can.” I remember settling in my seat as the thought sunk in.
What made me different from other girls? Is it my personality? How is it that I can hold a conversation while others can’t? What do other girls do on dates if they’re not talking to their date?
A little personal story:
Ever since I could remember, at ever parent-teacher conference, my teachers pointed out how much I love to talk. My parents would always giggle at their comment, nod as a sign of mutual understanding and empathize with my teachers for putting up with my hyperactive personality for seven hours of the day, five days a week. With that being said, my talkativeness was always perceived as a personal flaw, something people would identify me by, something about Melissa that made her, well Melissa. So now it’s fascinating and a little self-satisfying to see how it is now a positive attribute.
In conclusion, I hope that you can take something from my lessons and experience. You should never feel ashamed of who you are, especially a personality trait. Some may see it as a flaw, while others will see it as a refreshing quality about yourself. More importantly, don’t be afraid to get to know someone new! Spark up a conversation. Get to know them for you never know what you’ll learn about them, the world, or even yourself! You also will never know how they can benefit your life, whether it’s a professional connection or a personal lesson. Of course, you should always be smart and safe about who you talk to. I don’t suggest going somewhere with someone you just met unless it’s an extremely public place. But it’s always nice to meet someone new and learn something you’ve never knew before.
I wish you happy talking!
Inspired by Mike from Long Island, NY