Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. In 2010, a team at the University of Michigan led by the psychologist Sara Konrath put together the findings of 72 studies that were conducted over a 30-year period.People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000.
Young people spoke to me enthusiastically about the good things that flow from a life lived by the rule of three, which you can follow not only during meals but all the time.
If so, it is not doing the work of the old conversation. Not that many years ago, the most exciting aspect of that hike might have been the idea of roughing it or the beauty of unspoiled nature.
These days, what made the biggest impression was being phoneless.
In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours.
If we can’t gather ourselves, we can’t recognize other people for who they are.
At a retreat, the dean described how a seventh grader had tried to exclude a classmate from a school social event.