Friday, April 13, 2012

The spoken word

Around a month or so ago, I was sitting at a beautiful banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of some of Tennessee's most ambitious high school students. Everyone was dressed to impress, the girls donning their most flattering cocktail dresses with swanky updo's and the guys spiffing up with ties and clean faces and combed hair. We were served the most decadent foods on the most delicate dishes. There was even some nice background mood music. All the elements were in place to provide for the enjoyment of our esteemed company.

And yet it was one of the most awkward evenings I can remember experiencing.

No one was talking. I am not joking. There were hardly any words, much less sentences, uttered. The few that were spoken were politely strained responses to my attempts of conversation starters... I found myself wishing I had brought my old trusty question game book.

Yet they communicated incessantly.

I tell you... it was uncomfortably uncanny...

What happened looked like this: All of the students at the table (There were 8 of them. A dear friend/colleague and I rounded out the table of 10.) had their chair leaned back to be able to look down at their smart phones that rested comfortably in their laps. Every once in awhile one of them would giggle and shoot a glance across the table. Then they would pass a phone to their neighbor to see. A couple of minutes later it would happen again.

This went on ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

There were distractions. It was March Madness. There was anticipation of an ever-looming Spring Break. There were students from other schools scoping them out. I found myself making excuses for their anti-social behavior.

Then I got uncomfortable.

What were these under-the-table-texts about? We were staying at Opryland Hotel, and as a chaperone, I started getting paranoid that they were making plans to meet up later to drink or smoke or hook up. I was worried that they HAD been drinking and were sharing private jokes. I was worried that they were making fun of someone. I wasn't even sure that they weren't making fun of me.

All I know is that it heightened my senses and sharpened my awareness. My mind raced 15 years ahead thinking about my girls and what communication barriers they will face, what their bullies will look like, what their peer pressure will feel like, and I was again reminded that I am an old soul. I am. I want to preserve traditions, even if the spoken word is becoming archaic.

Who would ever really think that the spoken word could become archaic???

It is.

This evening has spiraled my thoughts and curiosity and creativity into delving into the communicative world of the technological teenager.

I shared my experience with one of my AP classes and polled them on their experiences with my experience. They nodded and laughed sheepishly as I shared the awkwardness of the evening, and they confessed to eating at restaurants with groups of friends and realizing at the end of the meal that they had not spoken a word.

One of my refreshingly and honest and, I must admit, favorite students even said that she and her group of friends have made a rule that when at a restaurant, they put all of their phones in a basket in the middle of the table to MAKE themselves talk and not constantly check their phones. She said that they are ok with it because when they check their phones at the end of the meal, they are excited to find that they have 15 new notifications.

It just confirms their popularity and validates their existence, the important things, after all.

1 comment:

K Yung said...

This is a great post. You're really good with words (pun intended).