Monday, August 10, 2009

Foolish Mouth Noises

What is the point of talking to someone if you don't actually have something to say? Small talk is fine to fill in spaces if you're actually with a live person (zombies make terrible conversationalists) and you're really uncomfortable with silence. There's also all sorts of filler/greetings that is polite and expected when you start a live conversation (in person or talking on the phone). That's fine. I'm totally comfortable with small talk in certain contexts. But if you go out of your way to start a conversation, purposfully call me or send a text message for a little chat, for the love of egg salad, have a point!

The text message is an interesting medium for this subject. I know I haven't always been a fan of text messaging (my skin still crawls at every occurrence of the word "texting," though I have to concede that it is unaviodably made its way into the vernacular and cannot really be avoided). I do use it a lot. I like it for quick, informative and usefull messages (meet here at such-and-such a time, party at this place, etc.) or just to share something I found amusing with a bunch of friends all at the same time. When I send random nonsense to a bunch of people though, I don't expect them to respond. And I don't respond when I get the same sort of thing. In fact, that sort of thing is probably best reserved for Twitter. Ah, Twitter... that's a rant for another day.

Text messaging is not the proper medium for and actual, in depth, conversation. It is especially not the medium for small talk. It's condensed and restricted language. Its purpose is for us to get quickly to the point without having to go through all the awkward greeting, polite small talk, and build up, that comes in a normal context. It's quick and easy. It's abreviated. You cut to the chase and make your point concisely. It is not a format for superflous chatter - it was constructed to filter that out. To steamline our communication. Don't spam me with drivel - I won't respond. Have something to say and then say it!

The same thing goes for phone conversations, to an extent. Some small talk is to be expected, but don't call me with no further plan than polite greeting exchange ("hello, how are you? I'm lovely.") Even if you just have a super weak excuse to call, like telling me about the amazing fries you had for lunch; that's better than calling for no reason. I will spend hours talking to a person, but when they first call, I assume they actually have something to say so I generally won't digress until I've given them a chance to conduct their business. If you don't have anything to add after the initial hellos, chances are you will be listening to me wait politely for you to say whatever it was you called to say. After that, conversation can flow freely. Hopefully the description of your fries will lead to further conversations about any number of things. But a good phone call needs to have a starting point besides just filler. If you don't have anything to say, don't say it!

By the way, I like Mark Twain:
"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

4 comments:

Jeremy Nicoll said...

Twitter is da bomb!

Cassie The Great said...

Twitter is annoying. But it is a good place to get all the annoying nonsense out of your system. Yell the silliness into the darkness and hope someone is listening. It's a perfect place for you, Jeremy. You can be annoying there and we can all ignore you really easily.

Tim Hinkle said...

I want some amazing fries for lunch. Is this an example conversation drawn from life? Where were the fries from?!

Cassie The Great said...

Unfortunately the amazing fries were fictitious. It was just a random example topic pulled from my brain. There are some places that have really good fries though. I think the best I've ever had was at Steamworks Brewery in Durango,CO.