It’s 5 p.m. I have had over 30 Slack conversations, 20 Facebook messages and 5 texts today. I walked to work with my headphones on, and will probably walk home with them on as well. San Francisco is mute. I don’t remember the last time I actually called someone besides my best friend. “Good Morning,” doesn’t happen for the nameless faces that pass me by everyday. Something has happened to me. I am not conversationally challenged. In our small world, when do you actually talk to someone, and why?
The last three Lyfts I have been in were SILENT. I looked around and people were on their cellphones checking the latest Instagram post. They didn’t even think about greeting me when I got into the car. To me, their faces were blank. I got no acknowledgment for being a fellow human, and it makes me feel like dirt. We are all in our own world, just like walking to work. I do remember a time where riding in private transportation was friendlier in groups. There are sometimes I get the chance to talk, and I relish in it. I am human again!
There are long ass lines in the grocery store on Sunday. It’s a shared experience, another way to connect with people. But, no, they don’t want to talk to you. They just want to get their groceries and GTFO. We don’t even complain to each other about the 15 person line we are in — just silence. Ironically, the security officer always says “Hi.” Maybe because I am smiling, or because I am female. But either way, I get some form of human interaction. It is lovely. When I go for a run, I pass the same lady who monitors the crosswalk in front of the school. She talks to me. She asks me how I am and makes a comment about the awful drivers in S.F. I adore her.
While I definitely have conversations with people in my office, there is a point in the day where everyone disconnects. It’s silent, and we keep our conversations to Slack. This is one of the only places that I find noncommunication acceptable. Get your work done, then be chatty. But life isn’t work. Life is comprised of people.
But what about when we do connect? When is the last time you actually got someone’s phone number? We as a San Francisco populace do not spend nearly as much time on text than we do on Facebook messenger. When we meet someone new, we are as judgmental as ever, putting their name into your search bar and immediately seeing how many friends we have in common. You can automatically vet people on the spot. “Oh no, you’re friends with my ex,” you think to yourself. As a result, you judge the book by it’s cover. Even with Facebook, most new friends are forgettable unless they communicate. If they do decide to talk, it will have to be on Facebook, of course.
But I do something different. When I find a new friend, I take a selfie with them and send it via text message. The text will read, “Hey X, It’s Melissa. We are at Y.” So now they know who I am, believe that they actually met me and are informed of where. Maybe then you can trace back through the four whiskey and Cokes you drank back to the moment you met the person. Or maybe not. But Facebook isn’t the future of keeping your cellphone safe from strangers and minimizing your ability to communicate.
I am sure you have heard it a million times before, but Snapchat is the future. My friend exclusively uses Snapchat to communicate with her friends. She even connects with guys through Snapchat. “Add me on Snapchat,” she says as she rolls her eyes. She explained it to me very clearly. She can connect on Snapchat, and if she doesn’t want to continue talking to them, she can remove that person. There is no history of their conversation, and no further thought about it. For the self-guarded communicator, she is brilliant.
She is also incredibly rare, with her exotic look, beautiful eyes and golden skin. I am not sure how, but she gets hit on by men who actually want her number. While I am incredibly impressed by this phenomenon, it is by definition a rare occurrence. Communicating with strangers on a Friday night feels like a middle school dance. Men don’t have the courage to actually talk to women, and many women are not interested in “picking up” men. As a result, we cut out another opportunity to communicate. We stick to our group, minimizing the potential of more communication.
I am a natural extrovert. I am happy to be around people and communicate. The technology and attitude of San Francisco is starting to get to me. It really feels like everyone is having a bad day, except me. Group mentality here is strong. I’ve written about it before. We dress the same, go to the same places and have similar jobs. As I noticed recently, we are also not talking to each other. It is creeping up on me like a rain cloud. I do not want to be the girl who creates her world through text communication. I will not bow down. I cannot let this get to me.
After I finish a call with my Mom, I take off my headphones and walk home from work. I smile, say excuse me and sometimes blurt out “Good evening.” God I am such a dork. But I am a nice dork, one who will keep reaching out, even when the S.F. world goes silent.
With a background in journalism, Melissa Eisenberg has been working in the tech industry for eight years, currently leading the SF FashTech community.