Mute button

Times-Herald Editorial Staff
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A friend of mine named Higgins introduced the idea of actually listening to people when you’re having a conversation with them.


By Nathan Frank

As odd as it is, as I was sitting listening to Higgins, I thought of how difficult this is to do. I am guilty of usually only partly listening, while I think about what to say in response to what my friends are saying.

After Higgins finished speaking, a girl in the room named Bernice chimed in. She began to ramble on for what could have been 20 minutes about how she was a terrible listener. She told a story about how her best friend was the kind of person Higgins described. Her friend actually listened and often would take time after Bernice finished talking to consider what her response would be.

It was an interesting story, but it didn’t end there. It never does with Bernice.

She continued to tell uncomfortable jokes to the group. She awkwardly made fun of herself so we would laugh at her and told odd stories about farting and being poor. It would have been OK had it not lasted 20 minutes.

I had seen her do this before. She clearly likes to hear herself speak, even if I don’t share the same enjoyment. Twenty minutes later, I sat there irritated, thinking about how I wish I could have just pressed the mute button on her.

Although Bernice is clearly unbalanced in how self-involved she is, I don’t think she is rare — not in today’s world. Most of these people, however, have taken their constant craving for attention to the dangerous territory of the Internet.

We all know the people who go on Facebook and share information about their lives. It’s usually way too personal. We also all know the people who can’t help but argue with everyone about the existence of God or their love or hate for Phil Robertson. They have the right to do this, but why do they feel like it benefits anyone — including themselves?

They are digital Bernices, who either haven’t figured out that it’s rude to digitally vomit these things, or they just can’t control themselves. It’s probably a combination of both.

Easy access has led some to live tweet every aspect of their lives — including the making of their before-bed baloney sandwich and their love for pickles. It’s a search for self-importance and identity at its pinnacle.

Yet, it’s the result of the same desire we each have.

I have the same desire. I want to know I am important. I want to be listened to and I like the attention of certain people. However, in the yearning for self-importance is a love of yourself and that’s a pretty repulsive thing — maybe one of the most repulsive.

What is attractive however, is the person who listens and who puts aside their desire to be heard to learn about the person across from them.

The alternative is becoming another Bernice.

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