The other day, I tried something I’d long forgotten how to do. I engaged in a real-time, face-to-face conversation with another human.
Being so out of practice, I bumbled along at first. After all, I had stopped having real-time, face-to-face conversations with other humans at about 11:32 a.m. on May 23, 2011.
Many people like me apparently no longer have a clue about how to have a real-time, face-to-face conversation. But anyone committed to picking up the ins and outs can get the hang of it. And with summer approaching — and most people going off-line and looking to be more sociable — now’s as good a time to learn as any.
Luckily, I can share a few trusty tips based on my experience.
For starters, welcome to that exotic place, often rumored about but rarely experienced anymore, that’s commonly referred to as the here and now. This state of affairs will bring into play an unfamiliar factor we call spontaneity. So for example, if the other person in the conversation at some point stops talking, that’s your cue to say something.
Warning: Improvising can have drawbacks. You can no longer respond to your interlocutor at your leisure. You also are minus having Google and Wikipedia at your fingertips. As a result, you may discover that you no longer sound anything remotely like a member of Mensa. This will be dismaying. Just take a deep breath and go with the flow.
Keep in mind at all times, too, that you’re physically visible to the other person. And he or she can see you, too. So that photo of yourself from 20 years ago that you always post on Facebook and throughout the Twittersphere will now officially cease to fool anyone.
While you’re at it, you might as well take a stab at the once-popular phenomenon called eye contact. If you do, you’ll see something you may never have seen in the flesh before. It will be a face. It will belong to the other person.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that faces have a habit of changing expression. So try to read the signs. If, say, the other person frowns, it could mean you’re being boring. Be aware of your face, too. If, for example, you’re looking to convey happiness or pleasure, you can no longer rely on a smiley-face emoticon. You just need to smile.
In the process, you’ll also hear something new. It will be the sound of voices. They will belong to you and the other person. How cool a feature is that? So it’s suggested that you be careful about groaning or sighing or otherwise giving off sounds that indicate your disgust.
Beware of other risks, too. Because you’re now occupying the exact same location as the other person in the space-time continuum — all without a computer screen and keypad in front of you — you’ll probably feel disoriented, even unstable. You may feel an urge to click a link or scroll ahead or check your Instagram account or somehow delete what you just said. Well, good luck with that.
Please remember to wear clothes. Make an effort to practice at least minimal personal hygiene. If you’re feeling chatty, feel free to express yourself in excess of 140 characters. And resist the temptation to resort to acronyms such as “LOL.” In such instances, it’s easier, not to mention more authentic, to just laugh out loud.
Congratulations! You’re now experiencing the organic high of true connectivity. Just a quick, last-minute heads-up, though. Even under the best of circumstances, having a real-time, face-to-face conversation could freak you out. You might feel that you have utterly lost control.
And that will be because, in fact, you have.
Bob Brody, an executive and essayist in Forest Hills, is author of the upcoming memoir “Playing Catch With Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes Of Age.”