Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"How's the weather?" vs. Deep Thoughts

Maybe you saw it, maybe you didn't. But in case you didn't, here it is again: Talk Deeply, Be Happy?

This is a recent Well blog in the New York Times about the considerable benefits of talking—really talking—about the world, problems, relationships, etc. instead of that time-worn favorite, the weather. Apparently, studies do show that people who spend more time involving themselves in substantive discussions are happier than those who spread themselves thinly over the lighter fare.

Somehow, I'm not surprised by this.

About four weeks ago I left the rather sour post on Facebook that I was thinking about "getting off." Within hours, I received a shower of responses from people I'd hardly heard from in months saying, "Awwww, but we'll miss you." And the truth of the matter is that, weirdly, I kind of felt the same way. But how could that be true?

I think there was that sense that I would miss them because—and I am speaking strictly for myself here—with every Facebook "friendship" I've invited or maintained, the motive was based on this rather romantic notion of recapturing the bond I once had with that person, or of exploring what that person represents to me from my own past. That is not superficial stuff. I think this is, in part, how we end up with friends who aren't really friends. For me the idea is not to show off an astronomical number of acquaintances, but to somehow gather up the last remaining shreds of my own personal story. Those people are like the photographs that I keep in boxes and rarely look at, but when I do look at them, I realize that I would have the hardest time throwing them away. They have a value because they represent something. Me.

The flip side is that there is rarely any meaningful discourse with these people (now, mere Snapshots of Themselves). There's just that idle chatter on the Wall which is the Opposite of what I feel and want. Can I be blunt here? I hate that stuff. I mean, I engage in it, but it wastes loads of time and I always feel empty and sad and dissatisfied.

I know the writer of the aforementioned blog, and the conductors of the study, weren't looking at Facebook as much as they were looking at spoken exchange, but I think their thesis and their findings explain why I find Facebook so dreadfully saddening. It's also why, when I want to "talk" to someone, I prefer the private-messaging feature or that dinosaur of technologies, email, which reminds me of the even more protozoan personal favorite, actual letter-writing.

But the best of all, is talking. Really talking. Which is why, I also wish, every time I am posting a blog, that we were all of us miraculously reunited over a glass of wine and an endless amount of free time to let ourselves and our recent stories unfold. What do we really think? How do we really feel? What hurts, lately? What feels good? Why? And when it was all over, we'd go home thinking how good it felt to be alive, to be really connected, and to have maybe the tiniest hint of why we are all here.

(On that note, thanks to Joselin Martin for her fabulous posts on Journey Not Destination about running, being an athlete, running with MS, and the sheer persistence most things worthwhile require. It's been a joy to read, deeply satisfying. Nothing small-talky about it.)


  1. Boy do I feel the same way. Except I am also all but FB'ed out. I gave it a try, the old college try, but realized early on that people really aren't gathered there, most of them, to talk over a glass of wine. They're there for much more superficial reasons that soon too, shall pass. But maybe I was expecting too much. It was nice for awhile to say Hello to people who just to, to paraphrase you, be 'meaningful' in my life. Anyway, so glad you wrote this. A great discussion point.

  2. Thanks Janny. It just dawned on me, y'know, that so much time is wasted doing the stuff that doesn't matter. And that includes how we talk and what about. I recently went to a parents' thingy at Camille's school. She's doing her first communion this Spring, and as this IS Italy, well, you just kind of go with the flow. Anyway, this priest that addressed the parents was GREAT. And his parting shot was this: "Love. Forgive. Empty your heart of what does not matter to make room for what does." And boy did that hit home. He was obviously talking "religion" but he was also talking restoring meaning to life. Living without meaning imbedded in our quotidian affairs renders them 1. more exhausting and 2. satisfying. And the thought that your heart is filled with stuff that takes up space better dedicated to other things...well that is just not something I want to happen. So. Anyway. Thanks. Glad you're with me on this.

  3. Joselin4:49 AM

    Oh, Charlotte, leave it to you to put a finger directly on what I hadn't taken the time to noodle through myself! Monday night, a friend told me she was waiting for me to blog about the run Saturday, and I told her I couldn't until I had time to really think through what I wanted to say. The reality is that I seldom take enough time to even have the "cup of coffee" - no wine for me - conversation with myself, much less others. I often compose my thoughts in the shower while I'm using all the hot water (then beating myself up for not conserving water!)

    FB does let me touch base, and feel like I'm at least connected to something other than work. It's been great to reconnect with some really important parts of my past. Some of those parts I want to bring into my present. Some I want to forget were ever existed. Most are somewhere in the middle. I suppose that just like in the rest of my life, there's good and bad. I do know that because of those re-connections, I had a wonderful visit with someone I haven't seen in over 15 years. Oh, and I think I found you there, too, didn't I??? So I'm not going to abandon FB altogether.

    My challenge is to make time for those important conversations. I'm actually going to be late for work because of this post, but I really think you've hit something big and important here, at least for me. Thanks, and keep the conversation going!

  4. I find facebook frustrating when I go on, and people are playing farmville or some other equally boring game.......Every once in awhile someone will say something interesting, and then I'm able to put in my two cents.......
    However, the main reason for this post is to ask, no plead, that the two of you write another have so much to offer all of us....please consider it....and then 'just do it'(couldn't resist). love ya.