Chloe Fellwock is a sophomore advertising major and writes “Full Dis-Chlo-sure" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper.
As the days get shorter and the air gets colder, we’ll all be inclined to huddle inside. In doing so, we’ll realize just how many people are around us, and this is a really good thing most of the time. People have so many quirks and stories they have to share, and you can find some incredible human connections. You just have to ask.
But to me, there’s nothing more irritating than words without purpose. As someone who gets drained from any human interaction, regardless of how much I enjoy it, filler talk used simply for the gratification of hearing yourself talk or just to fill what you think is an awkward void is exhausting. The reason we all have so many dry and uncomfortable interactions is because silence is considered weird when it shouldn’t be.
Allow me to provide an example of just how horrid socially-obligated speaking can be for everyone involved.
The other day, I looked at my floor and decided I couldn’t continue living in such a state of filth as the one I saw. I sauntered to the downstairs of the DeHority Complex to borrow a vacuum. I rolled the big magic sucking machine through the security doors and onto the elevator.
As I entered and got ready to push the button up to my floor, another guy joined me. I had seen him around DeHo before. We’d even had a class or two together last semester — but I couldn’t tell you his name if you promised me nine hours of sleep as a reward.
I asked him what floor he needed.
I said, “Cool, same,” because I also needed the third floor
There we just stood in the elevator. It was a marvelous silence.
But then, he looked at me. He looked at the vacuum, and he said, “What’s the vacuum for?”
I felt absolutely flabbergasted. What was it for? What do you mean what was it for? What possible use could this vacuum have besides sucking messes up, throwing them into a bag full of void and dirt?
I had no clue how to feel. Was I nauseous? Enraged? Close to tears? I didn’t know. I also found myself unable to draw any conclusions as to what this man expected me to say to him. What kind of social pressure was he feeling that he saw a large, single-use item and felt compelled to ask me what it was for?
Now, in hindsight, I have a couple of ideas as to what he was asking. One might use a vacuum if their friend was having trouble exhaling and they needed a large sucking machine to assist them. Or maybe if they wanted to try their hand at homemade candy and having something quickly gobble all the candy up would boost their confidence up to make another batch.
But of course, I couldn’t say that — that would be rude. So, I just told him my floor was dirty and needed vacuuming.
What haunts me at night, though, isn’t any damage the incident has caused — it’s the circumstances under which it occurred.
Why have we become so inclined to fill every waking moment with active discussion, so much so that the second the air settles and nobody’s speaking, we resort to the lowest possible points of conversation? I feel like on a cultural level, we don’t let ourselves rest. Or at least, we don’t want to because it’s seen as laziness.
While I admire that we tend to be driven to progress and constantly think of the new big thing, it’s extremely problematic. Namely, it can make us prone to burn out. It can make us feel like we have to constantly be energetic and engaged for the sake of showing people we can think of some sort of content quickly, in and out of conversation. Our socialization pressures us to fill any moment of rest or silence because we see it as weak.
It makes people question your reasoning behind having a vacuum cleaner.
I want to challenge anyone who reads this to not initiate filler conversation, even just for a day. I want you to be free from a gut-wrenching, unqualified weather analysis or inquiries about the “big game last night.” Do people still do that? Who knows. I’ve mostly only ever heard stuff about “the big game” on TV, but it had to come from somewhere.
I just think it would be easier for all of us if we’d talk about things that matter. Or not at all.
“But Chloe, what qualifies as something that ‘matters?'” Obviously, that depends on the situation. For example, if there’s an inferno outside, I’d like to know. If there’s a duck nearby wearing a hat, I absolutely need that information, stat. If there’s a goose we should be prepared to fight, please inform me. If you just got a fresh new pair of Heelys or a grant to research that thing you like, I want to know.
I want to talk about things you’re genuinely passionate about. I just don’t want to hear things that people felt forced to say.
I don’t want people to hate silence so much that you grab at any potential conversation like Jack grabbed onto that floating door in “Titanic.” At least make it easier for me because I can’t handle another question about my intentions with a vacuum.
Contact Chloe with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @helloitschlo.