Are eBooks Killing Conversation?

Things nobody says anymore:

“What are you reading?”

This phrase used to spark conversations, friendships and love affairs, but it has all but disappeared in our world of e-books, iPads and smartphones. When I ride the train now, all I see are blank leather-bound cases, hiding the mysteries of the reader.

I say this with one exception, since oddly enough when Fifty Shades of Grey came out, a book you’d think people would want to hide behind a Kindle, everyone seemed to have a physical copy and would read it while sitting next to me – it was awkward.

GET OUT! 

GET OUT! 

This is, however, more of the exception than the rule and these romantic ways to start conversations are falling by the wayside. So what happens when, “I am re-reading my favorite book, The Great Gatsby.” turns into, “Uhh, Buzzfeed.”? Is there a way to replicate this conversation starter in our digital age?

In this month’s Curious Collaborative challenge, we are pushing ourselves to meet five new long-term contacts each week. This takes diligent networking, reaching out to people, going to events and starting conversations with strangers.

We started small, targeting unfamiliar co-workers and are working our way up to contacts that might initially intimidate you. Authors, celebrities, your CEO – who are you scared to reach out to? Go find them.

But how do you meet new people? For some it is simple, they say “Hello” as though they were breathing air. But, for others it is one of the most daunting tasks imaginable. Is it easier to go to a networking event alone, think of topics of conversation, break into groups of chatty friends and say, “hi” – or sit at home and watch another episode of Game of Thrones…

sooo lonely...

sooo lonely...

What is great about doing these challenges with friends is that you can feel accountable, get insights from others, and help each other make introductions.

So, when it comes to just meeting strangers out and about, if everyone is hiding behind headphones, iPads and Google Glass, how are we supposed to say hello?

Oh, I have an app for that.

Oh, I have an app for that.

Awhile back, I purchased a BookBook Case by TwelveSouth. It was one of my favorite purchases to date. I even had a matching case for my iPhone before switching to Samsung and can’t wait for my contract to be up so I can get it back, (I miss my iPhone).

Hello MacBeth

Hello MacBeth

Still today, it is one of the biggest conversation pieces that I can pull out of my backpack, as I receive compliments and inquiries from all sorts of new people. Yes, MacBeth the MacBook has served me well over the years.

But something happened this month that got me thinking. Why is it that this case inspires so much conversation? It must be because it looks like a book – the easiest conversation starter of all time, aside from the weather.

Transient

Many of the best laptop cases, covers and skins replicate traditional books as a means to express your personality. Similarly, when you carry a book, you are holding a physical manifestation of who you are and what you are interested. A “real-life” facebook interests tab, held in your hands. So in the digital age, where your Kindle Touch may very well replace your physical books, how will you express yourself and open the door to allow others to say hello?

Transient

What is your MacBeth?

Afterthought – I still think books are the best way to start a conversation with a stranger. Last Mother’s Day I was on the train heading out to the burbs, when a girl sat next to me and pulled out a book. I looked up from the pages of The Magicians, the book I was reading at the time, and asked her what she was reading. The book was Start Something That Matters, by Blake Mycoskie – the founder of TOMS Shoes. A fitting title to the start of a new conversation and we chatted the rest of the ride home to see our families. I may likely never cross her path again, but from now on, I always keep an eye out for what others are reading around me.


Transient

Author: Martin McGovern 

Martin McGovern is a marketer, storyteller and designer. He co-founded Idea Lemon and loves connecting people and ideas throughout Chicago.