Recently I was watching an old police drama. One character, that was being interviewed, was obfuscating and it dawned on me that it was all about the subtext. Of course, my little brain went wooooh! My first thought was that kids today don’t understand subtext and then I realized: that is how our youth speak to each other. I am also not entirely sure they understand the art of communication. They can actually have complete conversations in 280 characters! It used to be 140! And yet the average ‘text’ is usually only about 33 characters. I can’t say ‘hello’ properly in less than 50. And that is characters not words. When I was a youth, a text was a book, a sub was either a sandwich or a boat and characters were on the screen. Well, not really but those are the first things I think of.
Our language has evolved as our children have evolved. Today’s kids are in many ways much smarter than we ever were. But they are also dumber. Sorry that’s not fair. But think about it: how many have lost the ability to read cursive or tell time on an analog clock? Good manners are no longer common place, good sense is lacking and good courtesy . . .
A proper conversation was fluid and accentuated with gestures and facial reactions, whole body movements. Dialogues today are via texts. Heads down, eyes focused on a 4 x 6” screen. And this is while they are sitting next to each other! There is no sharing of emotions or reactions. How can you experience the flavour, the intensity of a language if you are alone or unaware? People who are blind or hearing-impaired use touch or movement to round out their talks.
Today’s conversationalists speak emoji. Teeny, tiny little figures that denote emotion. I think. I don’t really speak emoji. I know if I see a little yellow face with a smile that’s a good thing. I have seen people use an entire string of these emoji creatures and they’re actually speaking a sentence. Impressive. But like so many languages, I can only speak a few words. But I can fake it really well!
I am afraid to look too far into the future. Will conversations become soundbites and emojis? Or will we regress to a time when people sat over a cup of tea and had long conversations with gestures and substance. I don’t want to spend an hour over lunch discussing some actor’s transcendental metamorphosis while he was grooming his dog. I like a real conversation about life, the world, the future . . .
For at least a little while we are going to have to be inventive in how we have our chats. But I truly hope we do not retreat to the little glass screen but we keep a dialogue going face-to-face even if it is at a distance. That to me is a conversation.