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My View: What happened to light conversation among strangers?

By Judith Whitehead

Recently, I had to wait in a large waiting room for a medical appointment; the majority of the patients were women. What happened to the days when after waiting several minutes one would start up a conversation with the stranger sitting near you about nothing important. Just some casual talk to make the time go faster; it didn't matter what their age or race was. The subject matter didn't matter either.

Fast forward several years and now the atmosphere is totally different. When I looked around the room the majority of the people were on their iPhones; they were messaging or scrolling or answering emails. Some were listening to music or conversations and all were holding on to their phones as if they were an appendage of their bodies. No one made eye contact and very few were looking at even a magazine. We were all literally sitting inches from each other but yet there was silence in the room. Even after waiting several minutes it gets “old” looking at your phone and boring to me. Don't get me wrong, I too am an iPhone user and if you have friends or family members you are worried about, you want that connection close to get updates. Yes I have to admit, I will return home if I am still close by to retrieve an iPhone I forgot to bring with me.

Has our generation today made iPhones too much of a priority? Did we survive years ago with no phones to carry along? My first flip phone was huge and weighed about 3 pounds; it didn't even fit in my purse. I am saving it to donate to the Smithsonian some day. It was an amazing invention back then but it only made a phone call and did not become an appendage until modern-day times. These mini computers are reducing human contact, socialization for our young people and have become dangerous to the abusers nowadays. How many people walk into things while looking at their phone? How many people cause car accidents while reading a text message?

While in that waiting room I decided to “break the ice” with the woman sitting next to me and start a light conversation – turns out we shared many of the same viewpoints and before I knew it I was called in for my exam. We happened to be one of the few people looking at our phones and so that was the conversation opener for us.

In many ways the new phones have made our lives easier; they give us directions when we are lost, they entertain us and give us the chance to catch up with old friends, they can enable us to pay our bills, check bank accounts and search for information to name a few. I enjoy my phone as well but I feel there is a time and place to use them. They actually promote rudeness among people and need to be tucked away while in a social environment.

I am curious how the long-term impact these mini computers will have and affect our young generations just coming up. Will our very young generations loose the ability to converse with people and will they expect constant electronic stimulation? There is nothing that can take the place of human contact and imagination.

Maybe we should try and schedule a “no phone” time for our little ones in their growing up years. Let them run outside, create with their imaginations and explore as we did growing up. Not many young children even play outside any more; I miss the laughing and playing sounds of young people in our neighborhood. Make time for a “time out” on our I phones and take a trip off the information highway.

Judith Whitehead thinks scheduling "no phone" times could be helpful to humanity.



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