It’s 2022. Small talk is dead.
Perhaps you disagree. But before you immediately turn your nose up at my sentiment, think of your version of “small talk.” It’s probably not the tell-tale version of it. I’m not talking about a little chat with a neighbor you see on the driveway once a week, nor am I talking about the coworker or parent friend from your kid’s school that you are friends with on social media. I’m talking true blue, turn-to-a-stranger on an airplane, chit chat with a check-out-lane peer behind you or the pool chair next to you, little back-and-forth with your elbow partner in the line at TJ Maxx (it’s a long line, better hope your elbow partner doesn’t completely suck).
One of my unofficial and self-assigned roles as a contributor to the Indy Moms team has always been to observe what is happening in our society, be it social media aggressions, the depletion of our mental health at times, or how we should best navigate comment trolls. My latest realization – through actual trial, errors, successes, errors, and more errors…is that small talk is simply dead. It’s like navigating a minefield in this day and age. And it’s not just ME suggesting that others are insufferable, I realize sometimes I just don’t want to engage anymore. It’s my humble opinion that the following reasons have led to the death of small talk…and do we ever…ever…get it back?
Reason 1: Literally everything is politicized in this day and age. EVERYthing. Asking where a fellow shopper at Whole Foods found the chips in their cart can lead to a bio on the chip company’s efforts to eradicate the use of vegetable oil, making a tiny village in Germany able to sustain their energy resources more efficiently. It can’t just be a simple, “I got them in aisle four,” anymore. (Just a heads up…do not engage with ANYONE at Whole Foods about their diets, or you are ending up in a rundown about how honey prices are the end of society.)
And who among us hasn’t gotten snatched up in an accidental convo with a stranger where they give a rundown of their medical experiences of the last two years, and then the whole time, all I can do is cringe just thinking that any moment they are going to tell me of an uncomfortable opposing political belief to mine, and then I’ll be left to simply give a, “Hm.” Because I’m not going down a rabbit hole on Covid beliefs or conspiracies with a stranger, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Reason 2: We. Are. Tired. No offense, but we have all had to put on a brave face and a smile in certain times of Zoom misery or in a situation we absolutely find beyond “meh” in this day and age, some of us daily, through this two-year Hellstorm. When in a public setting among strangers, I’m now telling myself the same thing I tell my dogs or my kid when they see a piece of trash on the curb. “LEAVE IT!” I just don’t have time for anything that might offset my last remaining semblances of sanity anymore. I can’t risk a salty encounter with any person not already in my orbit of friends, fam, and acquaintances.
Reason 3: We are jaded. This one is probably the least realized, but it’s also the saddest when we pause and think about it. At some point in the last decade, we have found ourselves regretting having opened some form (or many forms) of Pandora’s boxes. We signed up for something that claimed to be free, and it wasn’t. We have befriended someone who seems great, but then we get to know them and come to find out they worship snakes…it never ends. The internet hasn’t really helped in all this, as we have grown to realize just about nothing is ever as it seems.
I’m sad. I genuinely don’t know if small talk can be resuscitated as a source of consistent joy in our society. Some days, it almost feels like we are nearing the style of approach that The Walking Dead gangs each roamed with…treading with caution and not allowing anyone into our orbit. How do we fix it? And if we don’t, are we telling our kids just to forgo trying to have any hope in a stranger-turning-friend for them in this new age world?
I know CPR. Got a current and up-to-date certification. Let me know how we save small talk.