The art of chatting is lost. In high school, I’d take a long-corded telephone and drag it across the hallway into my room, shut the door and shmooze with friends for literally hours. We must’ve talked about something of value, planning our youth group meetings or going over homework, before sliding into our erudite opinions on the top-10 pop songs and latest styles. Whatever it was, it was innocent and personal and direct.
I recently left 2 groups on Whatsapp because they weren’t what they had set out to be. One, a neighborhood sharing of favors and items – who needs a ride? who has this book? – that took a down turn when people started a stream of responses, ooh-ing and aah’ing rather than the original strict edict to respond privately. The other, a group of like-minded advocates gathered virtually to share and boost east other with creativity and collaboration – which turned to lengthy discourse and verbal attacks becoming, at least for me, counterproductive and even harmful.
With these departures, I experienced a loss. Far from the lengthy personal talks of my youth, these electronic communications signaled a group hug. A common language, a literal or figurative sharing across the way. Losing this made me stop and wonder how we accomplished these things before my smartphone demanded my 24-6 attention. Granted, I can pop into a neighbor’s yard and borrow a cup of milk, or read an op-ed from one of my talented peers with the latest in political analysis, but that doesn’t replace a community of sharing – literally and figuratively.
Coffee shop meeetings are a thing of the past, for now. International conferences in 2021 seem unlikely. Even in leisure: We watch our hometown baseball team (please don’t change their name to something disastrously PC) playing to no crowds in the stands, our favorite musicals shared mercifully online and walks in nature when the coast is clear. These are the realities today.
So there is a space for shmoozing. I say let’s bring it back, without sending that first awkward text: ‘Can I call you now?’ Pick up the phone and catch up with a friend. Have that professional discussion one-on-one. Listen to another person but do it directly, if not in person. At the very least, it’ll help us spend more time with Grandma.
Who knows where the chatter will lead, while we’re in this strange hiatus from the old normal – and what mountains we will climb in the interim.
Stay healthy, stay busy, stay productive!