Slow conversations

Since I have come back to one of my favorite hobbies, reading, I have made some observations about how I enter into and sustain a conversation. I don’t mean a conversation with one person, like a phone call, but instead a large multi-faceted conversation that occurs with the written word.

I love how books delve into a topic from the inside out – the ideas slowly form over the minutes and hours. They take their form from a crisp piece of paper to a well-blended watercolor.

Social media has been knocked down several notches in my list of priorities. For a long time, I participated in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I even remember when Myspace was a thing. If you want the hot take about what’s going on in the world, with opinions and facts alike, social media is the place to go. There are innumerable topics and everyone’s got an opinion about them.

The problem with social media is that the ideas are shallow, underdeveloped, and under-researched. Notwithstanding, I get a broad view of the topic, not all that unlike pulling up Google Earth to get a view of the (very round) world.

Social media is designed to show me ever-increasing amounts of things that I agree with or topics I can’t get enough of (more homesteading videos, anyone?), but books are self-selected. While I may read many books about the same topic, there are naturally other ideas woven in, in a way that contextually makes sense.

I was concerned that opting out of most social media meant that I would be missing out (I could write a lot about this). I wouldn’t have a pulse on what’s going on in the world. I’d be off in my own little bubble, oblivious to the pain and grief as well as positive events of the world.

However, I’ve found that reading has brought me to a much more balanced understanding of the conversations happening in the world. I like to call these “slow conversations.” I can take my time to develop my own thoughts and opinions on a topic – recently top choices have been religion, spiritual deconstruction, and Arctic adventures.

Reading also provides ample fodder for ideas about writing – this post is a good example. There’s so much to discuss about books – the topic itself, the author, inferring the author’s inspiration or purpose, meta-discussion like this one. Social media sharing usually ends up spurring a divisive discussion that doesn’t last long – either someone’s right or wrong.

Instead of ransacking the ideas people blast at full volume on social media, I can carefully observe each idea and decide for myself whether or not to add it to my personal repertoire. It’s the difference between consuming French-press coffee from a ceramic mug and a sugary frozen beverage that’s gone in mere minutes.