Engaging Conversation in an Age of Distraction - page 2


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From the Summer 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Engaging Conversation in an Age of Distraction

by Randy Newman, PH.D.
Senior Teaching Fellow for Apologetics and Evangelism, C.S. Lewis Institute

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  Turkle values conversation so highly as to see it in almost theological terms. “Conversation is the most human and humanizing thing that we do.” Thus she bemoans the decline of conversation, because it leads to loneliness, cripples our ability to express empathy, and diminishes our capacity for concentration. This, she insists, is because, “Our phones are not accessories, but psychologically potent devices that change not just what we do but who we are.”1
 Her book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age allows her to offer a fuller treatment of the topic. Consider these insights:


When they work best, people don’t just speak but listen, both to others and to themselves. They allow themselves to be vulnerable. They are fully present and open to where things might go.2

In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours. When we are secure in ourselves we are able to listen to other people and really hear what they have to say. And then in conversation with other people we become better at inner dialogue.3

The desire to manage our time means that certain conversations tend to fall away. Most endangered: the kind in which you listen intently to another person and expect that he or she is listening to you; where a discussion can go off on a tangent and circle back; where something unexpected can be discovered about a person or an idea.4

  But her analyses are far from hopeless. She’s not even extreme in her suggested solutions. “It is not about giving up our phones but about using them with greater intention. Conversation is there for us to reclaim.”5 She offers some suggestions to start disconnecting from our phones and reconnecting with our friends:
  “We can choose not to carry our phones all the time.”
  “We can park our phones in a room and go to them every hour or two while we work on other things or talk to other people.”
  “We can carve out spaces at home or work that are device-free, sacred spaces for the paired virtues of conversation and solitude.”6

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