I did not try very hard to like Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. Within a couple of pages, I felt a strong urge to fight every lament the author has about how our digital toys are running conversation, much as I had when reading her previous book, Alone Together. Things are going to hell in a hand basket because some (most?) of us cannot leave our little cell phones alone.
I’m not so sure. Yes, it is annoying when people check their phones in the middle of a conversation — but certainly children’s cruelty existed before digital devices ruined their empathy (she says), and adolescent awkwardness existed before Facebook stole their souls. And bored people (now unbored, superficially, by interacting with their devices) do not all invent marvelous things: most of them just remain bored and unproductive. If they can chat with grandma or play a mindless game or write a grocery list on their phone instead of just waiting for time to pass, is that really so bad?
It is true that we need to manage their devices. In particular, we need to take breaks every once in while, and we need to experience the power of face-to-face conversations to resolve issues. But I think it’s more of a growing pain as we get used to the technology than a systemic issue. And moaning about it won’t help much!