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.


28 thoughts on “Subtext

  1. Dan Antion

    I’m with you, Pam. Although, our daughter did “illustrate” an entire movie, in emojis. It was an impressive string 😏 But she’s a talented communicator, and she speaks and writes very well.

    I don’t think conversation is lost forever. I think people will return to face-to-face once this pandemic is behind us and they realize what they’ve been missing.

    Stay well my wise friend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Cheryl

      That is the true key in all of this. A good communicator will find a way. It is, after all, how we have evolved which is why I fear the devolution trend in communication, with or without emojis. Even with symbols there is perception and perception is so very subjective. It causes one to consider the challenges to the hearing impaired every day of their lives.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. pensitivity101

    I agree with you about kids being smarter and also dumber Pam. They might be savvy in technospeak and gadgetry, but should electronics fail, how many can add up without a calculator, and from what I’ve seen, not many can spell the way I was taught. I was once told by a teacher that they overlooked spelling errors as long as the gist of the word was correct. My school report from 1964 stated I’d made a real effort with my spelling!!
    I’m old school, which is why I’m popular as a darts chalker because some venues don’t have the electronic scoreboards. Using mobile phone calculators is annoying, frustrating and off-putting to a game, and is not allowed for knockout matches. Few players can actually add up let alone take away, so I and only a few others are a novelty as we’ve done both before the darts are retrieved from the board.
    I do wish my brain was geared for the latest technology though. In my day, if you wanted to know how to programme a VCR, you asked a 6 year old.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Widdershins

        Totally agree. They’re so screwed when the battery on their cellphones are drained. 🙂 … unfortunately it’s not just ‘them young’uns’ who are clueless about such things, bit I can’t imagine not having a back-up plan for all our utilities. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Murphy's Law

    Wonderful post Pam. I agree, our younger generation falls short when it comes to communicating verbally. Even with a keyboard, everything is reduced to few characters or emojis to indicate a word. Writing in cursive, or even printing clearly, are things of the past.

    But it’s not just kids. My neighbors, in their 50’s, are an example. They live in a single-wide mobile home. They text each other from one room to the other rather than to engage in conversation. WTH?

    I sure hope conversation doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of technology. I already talk to myself…..and I’m running out of things to talk to myself about!!!
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Mark Lanesbury

    The ‘connection’ a face to face has is very subtle but powerful. An emoji can do that but it is only half the equation. A bit like texting someone and asking them out to dinner but their mobile phone is turned off. And don’t get me started on auto correct, I’m sure it has blown the world up 50 times at least 😂 🤣
    Many, many subtleties are soooo lost, innuendos gained and ‘oh, does a heart mean he loves me, likes me or just trying to make me feel better?’, leaving many in its wake 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. oldmainer

    Good courtesy? Try any courtesy. And yes, the American language is on life support. I was never a good student, but I sure knew more about what was going on around me then most do today. But perhaps this is just a sign of evolution. They don’t have to be able to speak to each other. They just need to be able to communicate with the robot that is replacing us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Emilie

    I don’t even care for telephone conversation. I need to see the person, see the persons reactions. Smiles, gestures, a shake of the head. And with this virus, it may be getting worse and worse for young people. They are confined and probably spent much of each day texting.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Cheryl

    Interesting questions Pam. I find a lot of things contradictory in this age of Coronavirus “restriction”. Long before this time I have attempted lunch dates with my younger friends/work associates who were glued to their phones, paying more attention to their texts than me. That was long before Facebook ruled and Twitter was just cracking the shell. Suddenly, though, since being restricted from actual physical contact, suddenly everyone has this life threatening need to be in large groups with their ‘besties’, getting out on the beach and in the parks with twenty others at a time, masks be damned! And we must all hug oneanother and have our cheeks together for selfies to show the rest of the world our solidarity on this. While, here sit I, still thankful to actually have the presence of mind to work my computer, be connected to those like minded souls that seem to somehow be always ‘out there’, and will be ever grateful To share a cup of tea with an old friend, speaking a little more loudly through our masks and/or sitting 6 feet apart rather than the three to four that an average sized table might be. I see the major problem with so much of humanity, especially first world humanity, is the incessant obsession with an unrealistic sense of lack. Never enough. Never good enough. Never long enough or fast enough or complete and always seeking to fill the void with whatever is being sold as the cure. Sorry. My cynicism is showing. Think I’ll go make a cup of tea. Will you join the appropriate distance, of course. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. quiall Post author

      My friend I will always join you for a cuppa! Virtually speaking. And there is no need to apologize. You are speaking what many of us are thinking. Stupidity and hubris will be the end of us.



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