When I was driving in Sicily I opted for listening to podcasts rather than music as I found them less distracting at those times when the challenges of navigating an unfamiliar vehicle, on the opposite side of the road to the UK and with handbrake and gears similarly on the right rather than the left. One of the items that I enjoyed was called Double Talk and celebrated the value of dialogue in a world where we increasingly live in the echo chambers of social media choices that reflect our existing views rather than engaging with those who have different perspectives.
I know from my own work that I’m most effective as a trainer when my approach is discursive rather than a lecture, and this programme drew on perspectives from those involved in philosophy, the law, music and other backgrounds to demonstrate how new thinking is created by the push and pull of two-way conversation. I’m as guilty as anyone of the one-way “push” approach; this blog, my Instagram account and my ViewBug gallery all share my view of the world, and rarely does this lead to any interaction beyond the self-gratification of looking for “likes” or similar. My blog entries rarely attract comment or debate.
Historically if I was running a training course, the breaks would see a rush of people leave the room to attend to their caffeine or nicotine addictions, but now more often than not they stay put, reach for their phones and enter browse mode.
I suspect that Sicily (and perhaps Italy more broadly) could be bucking that trend. I’ve never been so aware of people actually talking to each other.
In every town or village I’d encounter groups of old men in serious conversation on benches in parks and piazzas. Perhaps it’s the weather in the UK that discourages this but I’ve never seen so many men in conversation.
There are road users aplenty who flout any laws relating to mobile use, and yes I see drivers on their mobiles in the UK but never as frequently as in Italy, where the many moped users are often seen steering one-handed, their mobile clutched tightly in the other.
The great thing was that the Sicilians were all talking; even when putting their phones to use, they were vocal, allowing their feelings to be heard in ways for which no end of emojis can compensate.