Sunday, June 25, 2006

Behind the times

I'm beginning to understand why people join chat rooms. Chat rooms are for people with like interests who have the time to be there and to discuss those interests and others in written format. In dialogue, the written word is often inferior to the spoken word. I can get friends to discuss issues with me on the telephone and face to face, but I can't get them to write about the issues. I pose ideas and questions, and almost no one responds. A good joke generates more interest and commentary and goes on to a lot more people.

I like the written word. I can think about what someone has written and thoroughly understand (when that is possible) what I think he/she means before I respond. In spoken conversation, I have to respond immediately. Sometimes that means that I'm thinking of my response before the other person has finished speaking. And, if anyone talks very long, I've forgotten my response to the first part before the last is over. So, I sit there with a dumb look on my face as I try to remember what I intended to say. Perhaps the last part was the best, and I missed part of it as I realized my own thoughts were slipping away as we moved along.

Perhaps this is part of growing older. My grandmother and aunt both had Alzheimer's, and I suspect I shall have it also. "Shall" may be the wrong verb; perhaps I have it already and my efforts at conversation are dulled by my inability to hold onto thoughts. For whatever reasons, I like the written word so that I have time to focus on what's important to the other person and to me and to respond to both.

I'm not sure how well I'd do in a chat room, though. I've watched my partner "talking", and several conversations are going on at once with a time lag as various people respond. Some of them are in line with several conversations; so you have to figure out which response goes with which conversation. Of course, they don't usually talk about anything that requires a lot of concentration or my partner wouldn't be playing a game as she participates in the chat room.

I don't multi-task very well anymore either. Large gatherings find me silent unless spoken to directly. Partly that is because I can't differentiate sounds as well as I once could. If several people are speaking at once, I don't understand any of them; it's all a buzz to me. At restaurants, I usually sit with my back to the wall so there's no noise behind me. I've learned to read lips a bit, and that helps with conversations in noisy places.

Television has been difficult for me all of my adult life, and we didn't have a television when I was growing up. I strain to understand what the people are saying. News reporters usually do a better job of speaking than others; nature shows are often the worst because background noise makes the speaker unintelligible to me. Using stereo speakers for television improves my ability to hear somewhat.

I like newspapers and magazines and emails and real letters instead of videos and television and podcasts. I'd rather read a good book than see the movie. I'm afraid my aging ears, eyes and mind have left me behind the times.

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