The Death of Conversation in the Mobile Device Age

I walked into Starbucks today, and shook my head at the sight I see pretty much every time I walk into any Starbucks, anywhere in the country: people sitting in close proximity, not talking to each other, sipping their frappucinos, while playing with their consumer electronic devices.

Mobile Devices and the Death of Conversation

cellphones starbucks

The people might as well not even be there.

The rise of the smartphone, lightweight laptop, and tablet PC (collectively, “mobile devices”) has led to the death of public conversation. Starbucks is merely one example – public transportation is also a tight space where virtually no one talks to strangers and makes pleasant conversation. The whole point of going to the coffee shop used to be to stop coffee and shoot the breeze with strangers. Now everyone just plays on their computer or smart phone while sipping their coffee. Hell, the only place where conversation still exists is on plane rides, and that’s only because wireless mobile devices are banned on the flight.

(As an aside, it just struck me that a cool idea for a coffee shop might be one where gadget use is banned, and conversation encouraged. The actual execution could be tricky, but hey, it could be a big hit.)

The Dissemination of Ideas via Talking to Strangers

The death of conversation greatly slows the dissemination of good ideas, and holds people’s “information base” (the pool of facts upon which they base their important life decisions) hostage to the intelligence of their own social network (not a good idea), the mainstream media MegaPhone (), and whatever fashionable nonsense happens to be trending on the internet (at least the content that the tech billionaires aren’t outright manipulating to push a self-interested political agenda, e.g. Mark Zuckerberg).
the dumbest generation book cover

“And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.” -Luke 4:24

In my experience, birds of a feather flock together. It is rare to find a dumb person with many smart friends (> 120 IQ). Mark Bauerlein in his book “The Dumbest Generation” does not directly discuss IQ in the book, but his conclusions and presented fact base lead me to believe that people tend to cluster on social networks by IQ. The fact that someone can not know who America’s allies were in WWII demonstrates his point that not only did the person not know that fact, but no where in their circle of friends did the Second World War ever appear in conversation, or perhaps any history at all. High-IQ people just tend to rub low-IQ people the wrong way, and vice versa. This clustering and “sealing off” of social circles into groupthinking walled gardens presents a major barrier to the dissemination of good ideas – whether they originate from the mind of a genius or not.

Friendships by State Edict

school-bus

“Yay! We’re going to a place we have no choice to attend! Let’s add each other on Facebook when we become teens, and we’ll be friends forever, from hundreds of miles away!”

Social media does not encourage people to go out into the world and seek real friends, but to instead maintain weak social links via Facebook with the friends they had in school – people they were only brought into contact with due to the threat of sanctions by the State. What level of depth of friendship can be expected from such pairings? In the glossary of Kurt Vonnegut, the children attending a public school are a state-created granfalloon; they supposedly have a strong bond with each other, but their actual level of association is meaningless. The authentic bonds of family, mutual friendship, shared beliefs, and laboring together that existed in pre-modern times have been vanquished by the triumph of technology and science over traditional culture. The best chance at authentic friendships is generated by the free association of individuals; not by the State kidnapping schoolchildren, packing them on to buses, and cramming them into bully-infested, psychological torture-prisons mislabeled as “schools.”
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