20 January 2017

Socialising In A Dark Silent Room

There's something I've been wondering about for a while now, and my hope is that you, dear readers, can explain it to me:

How is watching films a social activity?

I'm serious. It makes no sense. You all gather in a dark room and stare at an inanimate object for two hours while yelling at each other if anyone dares breathe a word. How in the world is this socialising? You don't even LOOK at each other, never mind interact. And forget meaningful conversation -- if you ask a question it's usually in a whisper and accompanied with a hushed apology, plus an annoyed 'just watch!' from either the questionee or the other people you're 'socialising' with.

I don't know about you, but when I'm with a group of friends and they say, "let's watch a movie!' my heart immediately sinks because that's when I realise they would rather watch a story they already know by heart than interact with me and share their own story or learn mine -- even after I took time out of my day to be with them. And it's even worse when the first film finishes and everyone says 'let's watch another!' because then it's not even a case of watch-and-discuss, it's a case of the-lives-of-these-fictional-characters-are-more-important-to-me-than-your-life. Films are a way of ignoring someone in a socially acceptable fashion and pretending you have a great friendship. But you're not only wasting your own time, you're wasting theirs.

My parents' generation didn't watch films. They 'had coffee.' They would invite people over, sit down at the kitchen table with some baked goods, and drink tea or coffee as each guest preferred. And they talked. Long into the night I remember my parents forging and strengthening friendships at their kitchen table and at the kitchen tables of their friends. It takes just as long as a film, but it's SO much richer. By the time you're done 'coffee,' you know the other person's joys and struggles, hopes and dreams, things that make them tick and things they're good at. And you've formed an alliance. Now you're in each other's corners, so to speak, and if that person needs help, you're not only more likely to notice, you're more likely to know how to actually help.

This is how we build community. When was last time you actually bonded with someone by ignoring their existence?

I'm not saying we should completely stop watching films together. I have a friend I watch Doctor Who with whenever we can, but after the episode is over there's usually a good long chat, not just 'well, that was fun. See you later!' In moderation, films can be a good kickstarter for a conversation that leads to friendship. But don't gyp yourself out of that conversation. That's the important part. The film is preamble. The conversation is what builds and sustains a relationship -- any relationship.

The film can be paused. It will always be there. But your friends, your family -- they will not. Trust me on this. Tonight could be the last time your paths cross. Don't spend all of it ignoring and shushing them in the name of 'hanging out.' The day will come when you would give anything to hear their voice again, to see their face again -- but it will be gone. Don't shush that voice or hide that face in a dark room while you still have it with you.

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