It’s a simple question, but a loaded one as well. And soon, it may face extinction as social networks become as important a part of our lives as conversations themselves.
When dialogue begins between friends in e-mails, chats or even real life, people usually pull their biggest weapon out of the arsenal first: “How are you?”
Sites like Facebook and Twitter are where the conversations of the future will take place, and more increasingly we’ll be talking at a large group of people rather than to one or two specific individuals.
There’s no reason to blame the social web. After all, it grants our opinions their deepest desire: a megaphone. And every word is recorded and searchable. Can you imagine how many past conversations you’d like to go back and “replay” if given the chance?
But as our words, feelings and records migrate online, eliminated is the need for that initial question. After all, we’ve already answered it. The “share” boxes take the place of that imploring friend and ask us ever so politely, “What’s on your mind?” or “What are you doing?”
We’ll become so used to broadcasting our feelings, opinions and happenings that, quite literally, the state of “how” we are will be obviously apparent to our followers, friends and fans.
While the Three Social Fs (followers, friends and fans) get the benefit of your pronouncements and you get the perquisite of having to speak only once on a particular subject, a side-effect remains: traditional conversation suddenly becomes very untraditional.
When friends see you, asking “How are you?” or “What have you been up to?” is no longer important. After all, they already know. For them to inquire and for you to repeat is to perpetuate useless logorrhea.
Instead, it’s all about the details. People know that you “spent the night in the broom closest on the 23rd floor of the Chrysler Building.” Now they want to know why. How did you get there? Who locked you in? When did you get out?
Some argue that tweeting and status messages have eliminated traditional (or analog) conversation altogether, but instead, such life-data serves only to pique, enrich, and enhance.
The question “Where are you?” may be finding itself on the endangered list soon as well, due to the rise of GPS in gadgets that will give away our geographic location with our tweets.
Three once crucial questions will soon be reduced to revealing the identity of the uninformed.
Those who share their life-data may increasingly find themselves annoyed when confronted with such simple-minded questions.
People who ask these dying questions may be one of four breeds:
- The stranger. Someone you don’t know wants to make small talk. But why would the events of your day be of importance to them? After all, do they really care about you? The exception: They really do care about you and want to make friends.
- The busy. Someone who is so consumed in their work and daily activities that they can’t find the time to catch up on your life. Maybe you tweet too much, or maybe they follow so many people that when they finally do get home and check the social, they face a swamp of conversation.
- The lazy. Someone who just doesn’t feel like reading what you write or doesn’t actually care about it. Then, when they actually do run into you, they have no idea what you’ve been doing with your life and should feel shameful. Instead, they ask you to spend your precious time to tell them what you’ve really already told them online.
- The dying. Someone who (despite the Time magazine articles about old folks getting on Facebook) still doesn’t know what the purpose of a keyboard is, beyond reminding people of the letters of the alphabet. These individuals are often found in nursing homes, but may also be alien luddites who look and talk like the rest of us, that is, until they ask a dying question.
There will always be people who watch an “I Love Lucy” re-run while the season finale of “Lost” is on, and there will always be people who want to know how you are, despite not taking the time to find out the proper way.
Take a deep breath, give them your response, and remind them that they can find you online if they truly want to hear every whisper of your brain.
What we say will always be important, but how people listen will always be more important. Our conversations, in truth, should not be about ourselves, but instead about others. After all, all words are words, no matter the source.