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Talking Loud and Saying Way Too Much: Life in the TMI Age
When Did Talking Become so Hard?
This is a question I've been asking myself for over twenty years. And if you're wondering why, well, let me explain. It's not just hard for me, I've realized it's hard for a lot of people but complicating matters is the influx of technology that has besieged my generation and the generations following. But don't get me wrong, the generations before me have endured a lot of change but not to the extent where a simple conversation can make or break your career, social, personal, and spiritual lives in more ways than one.
This hub is about communication in the digital age as well as everyday conversations.
Ch-Ch-Changes in Technology
Some innovations in technology have reshaped how we communicate, for better and for worse. Here are some social applications that have altered our landscape in recent years.
Facebook: It used to be that you would go on dates or meet people face to face to get to know them, now all you have to do is Google them to find their Facebook profile. While in some cases it's good, in other instances- the mystery of getting to know someone has all but been completely removed.
On Facebook you can pretty much say what you like, don't like, read (or act like you read), watch, eat, and I'm sure there's a way to find out what your cousin wears to class. My point is, that Facebook has taken the excitement of getting to know someone over a period of time and reduced it to the digital equivalent of an index card on the first day of school.
Now this is not to knock Facebook, because it has helped people keep in touch with long lost relatives, solve crimes, request for help when they couldn't reach anyone else. But with great freedom comes great responsibility.
Twitter: Twitter has made it so that you can say what you think in 140 characters or less. Sometimes it's moving, sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it's completely ridiculous. Who would have thought we'd be talking about celebrities and everyday people getting into Twitter wars?
Twitter is helpful in maintaining and developing business and employment opportunities. It also has created the need for some people to share the most inane details of their life. Such as what they think about couch covers, what they ate, and other deliciously boring highlights of their life.
I'm all about personal expression but I think I can vouch for many of us, that Twitter has taken saying what's on your mind to another level.
Text Messaging: I think texting is a necessary evil. It helps get out quick communications for situations where a whole conversation isn't mandatory, but if you text the wrong person you can get into a philosophical discussion.
And what I deplore most about texting is the abomination of language it has aided in. Instead of people writing okay or even ok it's been reduced to k. As a writer, it makes me want to scream. Don't even get me started on these abbreviations for things I have to consult urban dictionary for... I digress but like I said it's necessary to a certain extent.
May I add that people don't even ask for a date anymore with their voice, it's a text message that usually says something like "wanna hook up." Now if you're my cable guy fine, but otherwise at least form a complete sentence.
Texting makes me long for the days of calling people.
Treading Lightly: Topics You Should Approach with Caution (Or Not at all)
You've met them. You know them. And you're probably looking at their profile page right now. Who am I talking about? It's the one person you dread talking to. Not because you hate them or anything, but you hate the fact that they talk about everything you want to know and then some.
Of course we all love people who can express themselves and their feelings openly, but it seems like this person has crossed the line. Now, of course there are exceptions to this like relatives, close friends, and your spouse/significant other but even with them you have to tread lightly about what you talk about. Here are a few topics you might want to steer clear of in polite company.
Politics: The election season is heating up and so are people's opinions on the candidates. While I understand people talking about issues that affect their lives, it's also important to remember not everyone is comfortable discussing such topics. Many workplaces have now barred people from discussing politics and religion. I believe if you want to talk about the issues, you should join a caucus, write a political blog, or talk to someone who shares/understand your point of view. But the last thing I want to hear during lunch is your diatribe on why so and so should be the next president.
Religion: Another obvious topic that to me is more controversial than beneficial. This usually applies to mixed company with whom you don't have a close relationship with or attend the same church/synagogue/temple, etc as. But I'd like to add, even if there is a person you are close to you might want to avoid talking about religion with. It's better to care for them at a distance than to risk permanent estrangement by espousing your religious views.
Social Issues: Now while this would somewhat qualify as political, but what I classify as social are things like generational differences, gender roles, and morals/values. I like talking to people about different issues, but I don't like being classified as the token "young person" in a discussion. What we all have to realize is that everyone is different and even though there are categories to classify our appearance or demographic but not our outlook or opinion.
Personal Health issues: I think this is a topic that merits discussion in particular situations. For instance, I have severe allergies and I don't mind talking to people who suffer themselves or have children with similar issues. But this isn't something I advertise about myself, I share only if the situation deems necessary. And that's what I would say to anyone with a certain condition or medical struggle not to dramatically insert this into an otherwise casual conversation.
Romantic/Sexual History: While there are many situations where it's okay to really talk about this, like say when you're in a relationship or when you have to have "the talk" with your preteens, there are many others where no one wants to hear about it. I've worked with people who unfortunately didn't grasp this concept and painted a detailed picture of their love life without me asking for a sketch. And I don't just say this applies to co-workers or acquaintances, it goes for family members too.
Family Issues: If your family resembles a Norman Rockwell painting, this doesn't apply to you. But for most of us, it does. That being said, no one should be privy to the fight you had with Cousin Ray ten years ago at Thanksgiving or the family secret your grandma let slip last year. Please keep family business as such, within your own family unless some situation dictates you to share.
While there are other topics that I could talk about, these are the most repeat offenders I've seen in my experiences. Like I said earlier, if you can share in a realistic way that doesn't offend the company you keep or other people in your life, then by all means go for it.
Don't Ask, Because I Won't Tell
This last capsule is dedicated to those individuals in society who unfortunately don't grasp the concept of a deeply personal question. Like many celebrities, I wish to say no comment and walk out because it's getting to the point of absurdity in some cases. Questions are meant to promote conversation in a real and honest way, not make you feel like you're being held captive.
Are you married?- Mary Tyler Moore had the most ingenious way of dodging this question in the pilot of her eponymous series, but most of our issues in life don't work themselves out in thirty minutes or less. That in mind, this question is not only rude and invasive but it's none of your business.
What are you?- We all know looks are deceiving, but that doesn't mean you should question the person you are conversing with's heritage. Race is still a sensitive issue that for many people present uncomfortable memories and associations. In our multicultural society, it is easy to want to inquire about someone's descent but for the sake of your safety and well-being, don't.
How old are you?- Everyone says it's rude to ask a lady her age, but it's rude to ask anyone over the age of five. Some people think it's cute to ask, but it's not. I am almost 24 and people still say, "Sweetie, how old are you?" And while I usually answer with my age, to keep things moving along, I really want to yell, "None of your business, but if you must know, old enough not to be called sweetie."
What religion are you?- I've only been asked this once and I obliged this person because I somewhat understood what they were aiming at. However, it was still rude. If people want to share their beliefs with you, they will. Don't push them into an awkward situation by doing something you will more than likely regret.
Are you gay, straight, etc?- If you remember that episode of Friends where poor Chandler was set up by a co-worker with a gay man when Chandler wasn't gay, you get my drift. It's nobody's business what someone does in their personal life but theirs and if they decide to share, that's fine but otherwise don't set yourself up for failure and a possible talk with HR.
Would you like to meet my daughter, cousin, friend, etc.?- While this has not happened to me, I do know someone who once had a deadly affinity for matchmaking. Unless you are Patti Stanger and get paid to set up people, don't ask. And if you just saw the question above, that should clue you in as well. People don't want you involved in their lives so intimately. This goes for anyone including relatives, co-workers, neighbors. If they are meant to meet, they will.
Now I hope this helps you or someone you know because nobody wants to be the one person everyone avoids because they overshare or want to promote oversharing.
I look forward to your thoughts and insights as always.Thanks for reading!