A conversation is defined as “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas” by Merriam-Webster and as “interactive communication between two or more people” by the more modern Wikipedia. Both are obviously naïve and unaware of how so-called conversations take place in contemporary social media driven society.
Fundamentally, today’s conversation is part of a multi-tasking adventure by the participants, with the number of tasks per head varying from two to infinity. Some less talented people, in addition to the in-person interactions (!) taking place, carry on a parallel conversation on their mobile phone. The more skilled ones, however, juggle with multiple chat sessions and peruse/post messages on Facebook, WhatsApp and a plethora of other must-indulge-in-every-minute applications – including posting about the discussion currently (not) taking place.
Another characteristic of modern conversation is talking only in questions (as they do in game shows such as ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’). People usually do not wait for answers to any of their questions – and to match this expectation, the responder treats every question as a rhetorical one and proceeds to the next topic with the speed of a car accelerating at a signal about to turn red.
The phenomenon reaches hilarious proportions when three or more people are involved in the said multi-tasking adventure. Let us follow one such conversation between three friends (I have limited the participation to three, based on my own limitations in multi-tasking).
Peter: Hello, how is it going? Did you all have a nice weekend?
Sheila: I will call you later …… Hi Betsy! Mom, I said … I will call you later.
Betsy: Hello Peter, how is John, your little one, doing?
Peter: Well, John is …..
Sheila: Hi Peter, how are you – did not see you earlier….. excuse me (looks at her smart phone)
Betsy: Oh my God! (vigorously swipes on her iPhone)
Peter: (looking lost) Ladies, is everything OK?
Sheila: (looking at her phone) Betsy, did you see where Bill was having dinner last night?
Betsy: (looking intently at a photo on her phone) Is that Bill?! Could hardly recognize…..Peter, you were saying…..
Peter: Never mind.
Sheila: Peter, you look a little off color today. Anything…..I forgot my brain, I mean, purse, at home…..My brain is not working…
Betsy: You never told me about how John is doing. Is he ……
Betsy: Hey, look….they are crazy……they did not deliver the Mother’s Day flowers to my mom….What a bummer.
Shortly thereafter, all three walk away looking at their smart phones. QED