I was reading G’s novel the other day and there was a ‘very minor’ (Sasot, 2017) detail that left me oddly unsettled: at one point in the story, the call center agent bida had not engaged in “any real conversation in a month.”
The line triggered a barrage of questions in my head, and they all stemmed from this: what exactly makes a conversation real?
Is it a question of Proximity, i.e. how far is Person A from Person B? One may assert, quite expectedly, that a conversation via phone call is not as real as a conversation held face-to-face — do you agree with this?
Why so? Is it because there are nuances to conversations in person that voice calls don’t provide? Speech is a performance, after all, isn’t it? It involves more than just language, and elements like geographic space and body movement, from hand gestures to shifting intonations, allow for more layers of meaning, don’t they?
If I told you, for example, that “you look cute in your profile picture,” would it mean something more if you could also see my lips stretch into a smile as I say it? And would you feel differently if, say, you noticed that my eyes were avoiding yours, as if searching for a spot to linger on? Wouldn’t you wonder if I was trying to conceal something — embarrassment, or insincerity, perhaps?
Is realness, then, a question of Multiplicity of Meaning? Are conversations more dynamic, ergo real, if One Thing could mean Many Things? Obligatory small talks are easily considered not real, aren’t they? When the fast food lady asks you if she may take your order, you know exactly what she means, don’t you? And this all-too-familiar exchange is barely a conversation, isn’t it?
But does Certainty of Meaning carry no value at all? Spoken words are more nuanced, yes, but writing demands precision and accuracy in portraying one’s thoughts, doesn’t it? So, if Person A and Person B are exchanging letters, aren’t they having a conversation that’s just as real as real-life discussions?
Or does this become a question of Medium, i.e. how are the messages sent and received? If handwritten letters are a valid medium for a real conversation, what about chat apps like Messenger? Do silly banters on Facebook count as real? And if not, then why not? What makes typing impersonal? Must a conversation be personal for it to be real?
And if I tell you that I’m aware how all of this is plain overthinking, you will laugh at me, won’t you? Have you read Le Guin, by any chance? Have you read her Amoeba Sex metaphor for ‘magical conversations’? Baliw si gaga, isn’t she? Or maybe you didn’t find the inclusion of eukaryotic coitus funny at all? What, or who, was Le Guin thinking about when she wrote the piece anyway?
Do you agree with Le Guin, though? A good conversation — a real one — is a union that’s just as magical as creation, isn’t it? Do you often have real conversations these days? Do you miss them, or do you even long for them?
What if we see each other again, or maybe for the first time? What if, per chance, I decide to ask you one question — just one, nothing more — will you care to answer at all? #
The featured image is from Passion Pit’s “Constant Conversations”, a dope single that you may want to give a listen. I also apologize for the slew of grammar lapses in this post — I honestly don’t understand how conditionals work, huhuhu. Sorry, Grammar Nazis!