Conversation Gives You Lots of Information, Connection Gives Little
Conversation is speaking to someone on the phone, on video or in person. It’s high-bandwidth, lots of information is conveyed to the other person, not just text. It’s all your gestures, expressions, tones, and rhythms.
Connection is Liking, Reacting, Commenting, Sharing, Texting and any other low-bandwidth media, where you don’t give much information in your actions.
If I just Liked what you said, you couldn’t glean much from that. There’s so little information in a Like. What did that Like even mean? There’s no nuance. Social Media gives the illusion of sharing your life with your friends and family or even strangers, but a Like is never going to be as meaningful as a deep conversation. Your mum will be much happier getting phone call on Mother’s day than a tribute Facebook post. Cardi B will never remember that Like you gave her latest post.
Talking is in the moment. You can see how your words affect the other person and adjust your speech accordingly or keep going because you’re getting the effect you want. There’s an immediate action-feedback loop. You tell a joke they laugh, you tell another joke, they laugh more, then another, they don’t laugh, you stop.
Coversation Expands, Connection Stops Immediately
Conversations are more serendipitous. You can jump suddenly to a completely different topic because something the other person said reminded you of something totally different, so a conversation about the weather leads to the systemic issues in our government and a million things in between.
Likes can’t create mental leaps, they don’t have enough meaning. They’re meaningless. Next time you have a conversation try to trace the last topic back to the first one. There may be 40 different jumps. I don’t think that will be the case with the last Like you gave.
Conversations Share More
If I have a hard day I want someone to listen to me and soothe me with comforting words or a hug. I don’t want 50 likes on my latest tweet. When something good happens to me, I want to jump and and down with with my friends, I don’t want Shares of a self-congratulatory post.
Loneliness triggers the same systems in your body as physical pain. It hurts. I’m sure if you think back to lockdown, you know what I mean. Likes and Shares don’t relieve loneliness. Only real conversation and touch can do that.
How To Have Conversations Over Connections
Phone-Call Office Hours
You’re busy. Your Mum’s busy. Your friends are busy. Time is scarce, therefore it’s the most valuable thing you can offer someone. You can make more money, you can’t unspend time.
Set a time when you are always free to a select group and stick to it. Make sure those select few know this time and know you mean it, they will feel appreciated and valued.
These are your “phone-call office hours”. The concept is taken from university lecturer office hours. Lecturers have schedules and research to do. They don’t want to see students all day everyday, but they do want to help their students when they have time. The solution is a fixed time every week where they welcome interruption and will help you learn. Instead you are ready to chat to anyone who might call.
A specific time works better than saying “call me anytime” because everyone knows you don’t mean any time. They may miss a few calls and get disheartened, or never call to begin with in case they bother you. This is a gradual process, but it’s how you end up thinking “Oh, I really should call Kate” 6 months after losing touch.
If you stick to times you are genuinely free, and keep telling people that time, your loved ones will realise you are reliable and call in these times more.
Reply to Texts in Blocks
If you’ve been replying to texts here and there all day, you might feel like you’ve been connected to your friends. But when you look back in a month, you will realise that connection isn’t as good as conversation. You may have never had a more meaningful connection than asking how their day was.
You can set your phone to Do Not Disturb and this will stop your phone buzzing for every text, breaking your concentration. You can also configure these settings to just let phone calls through or specific contacts, in case you still want to receive updates from people who need to get through at any time of the day.
Then once a day or as often as you like, you can check your texts and fire off all the replies in one go. This will help you feel like you’re not just answering texts all day in a constant haze of low-grade connection and then make time for real conversation.
Don’t “Like” or “Comment”
If your friend is important to you, call them or arrange to meet in person. If they’re not important to you, then drop them. You will get more meaning out of a few great friends than millions of followers.