Is the art of conversation fading?

Published May 13, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Pinky Concha-Colmenares


Pinky Concha Colmenares

Is this the way media events have become? Clusters of people, their heads bowed to their gadgets, are somewhere else but not at the site.

That’s the scene that I walked into when I finally went out of my “safe zone” and ventured into attending a media launching event weeks ago after two years of various alert level restrictions. It was an experience that was both amusing and informative.

It was amusing that people sitting together were too engrossed in their gadgets, they failed to even introduce themselves to each other.  It was informative because many of them were actually working through lunch, posting stories online where deadlines are ASAP.

After a long lunch of food I used to think were only appetizers, I left knowing only one new person at the table with me.  And that was because I finally waved at him to shift his eyesight to me, and I asked – “What is your name?” He turned out to be a fresh graduate from law school, who was cooling his heels in the motoring beat while waiting for the Bar exams. Of course he was a car enthusiast. We talked about his pickup and compared its suspension and comfort ride with my Hilux. So there, I had a conversation.
I tried to catch the eye of the other strangers at my table, to try to spark a conversation, but each was in some other place in his gadget, but not in the present where I was observing all of them.

The free-seating encouraged by the absence of an official host had brought me to the company of strangers. They all seemed to be content to be by themselves, attending to their gadgets – likely posting their stories online, while many preferred the company of their Facebook pages.  They only raised their heads to order a beverage, and then to partake of the appetizers and the paella.

And so, I sat there trying to absorb the new normal event that I had chosen to be my “debut” in face-to-face coverage. I found it amusing that there was less talk around the tables, but most of them appeared to be friends. Some lines were exchanged which encouraged a smile, or even laughter.

I realized two things: First, it is a world where familiar faces were very few. Most friends have moved on to other endeavors. Second, I was a complete stranger to many of the people there; even the young lady who had been asked to escort me from the launch venue to the restaurant asked – “What is your name?”

I had about an hour of being the only one there living in the present. I looked around for another table where people could be having a good conversation. That was the table where my friend and Manila Bulletin columnist James Deakin sat with friends.

Finally, two friends from way back, Jenny Pineda and Matt Mallari from Sunshine TV, came into the room. They had come from interviewing the company executives about the new car, the way journalists used to do in launching events before the pandemic.

Jenny was still Jenny of the old normal days – solicitous, charming, and friendly to all the strangers at our table. Times have changed, but Jenny was still from the the old normal world of motoring. And we had a good conversation.