Opinion

The Art of Small Talk: Don’t Let it Die Now

opinion of: DAVEN ROBERTS

In a world where old friends are only a text away how will new friends ever come to be

Every Millennial and every Gen-Z-er seems tired of hearing the Baby Boomer anthem day after day- “Get your head out of your phone and be present, why don’t you?” Though I side with the younger generations on debates including social media and fashion, I have to jump ship when it comes to being present.
They have a point.
While standing in line for ice cream with my mom, a couple behind us asked for our recommendations. After raving about our household’s favorites we continued to make small talk with the couple and came to find out that they have been together for 50 years and are each other’s best friends. The women grasped her husband’s hand and smiled like a little kid while she told us about the hawk they just saw while bird watching. Before leaving the wife said, “Don’t ever change. You two are wonderful.”
The New London locals taught me something.
If my mom weren’t with me, there is about a 75 percent chance that I wouldn’t have gotten to know the couple. Not because I wouldn’t want to or that I would have been rude, but when there was a lull in conversation I would have responded to the text that had sat unopened since noon. Most people my age would do the  same.
It’s not that teenagers and Millenials don’t want to be present. The problem is that presence in the technological world and presence in one’s surroundings contradict each other. A five minute wait in an ice cream line has become the perfect time to answer an email, listen to a voicemail, check Snapchat, or send a quick text. But it is also the perfect time for small talk.
Small talk does not have to be meaningless conversation to fill a silence or pointless rambling about the weather. Small talk is an art. An art that I didn’t realize I truly lack until I experienced how amazing a short conversation with a stranger can be.
When you think about it, it is jarring how much this generation struggles with the idea of a stranger. Yes, stranger danger was drilled into our heads as 8-year-olds but as we get older I feel as though many people around my age simply don’t know how to talk to someone they don’t already know.
There’s no reason not to make conversation with the lady in front of you in the Target line about the downpour occurring right outside the sliding doors to that heavenly store. There’s no reason we can’t become friends with people from other high schools at drivers ed and bond over being stuck watching violence and gory films for two hours twice a week when you know you both have better things to do.
But we can’t do that. Or rather, we won’t. If the Target lady turned around and commented to a Gen-Z-er about the weather I guarantee they would give a little, “hahahaha yeah,” and then post on their private story how “some weird lady in line just talked to me about the rain – like yes it’s been pouring all day (insert eyeroll emoji).” In drivers ed it’s worse because we will sit there with our heads in our phones texting our friends instead of possibly making new friends. We’re with them two nights a week for two hours a night. Talking would have to be more fun.
The couple in the ice cream line taught me to be present.
I encourage all my fellow Gen-Z-ers and Millennials to respond to that text later. Take the Baby Boomers advice and get your head out of your phone. It is time for this generation to master the art small talk.

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