This week I want to embrace the awkwardness and actually engage in real conversations. I'm challenging you to try it too!

As we’ve become increasingly isolated by the same technology intended to bring us together, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether the future of automation will mean that humans will actually have more time to actually go outside and socialise, or if we’ll only become more recluse in a world where we no longer need to leave our home to read books or watch films, there are no drivers in our taxis, food and mail are dispatched directly to our door by drones or robots, and everyone you’ve ever known can be interacted with at the touch of a button.

A conversation with good friend and renowned poet Jeremiah (Sugar J) Brown about the role of the poet as philosopher reminded me that one of the most important differentiators in a generation that has grown up addicted to the dopamine hits of social media and Netflix binging will be the under-development of soft skills.

It’s made me consider how often I go an entire day without speaking to another human despite being surrounded by them. I can head to the gym with headphones on, order my coffee on the way to Costa and spend a few hours working there as people come and go - my headphones haven’t left my head at this point - then maybe I’ll sit in silence on a packed train through central London, laugh at a film in a room full of strangers, self-checkout at the nearest Tesco and fire off a few tweets in the back of a silent Uber.

This week I’m challenging myself to actually talk to the people I interact with. You should try it too!

Here’s a few tips on improving your social skills:

1. Don’t Hide Behind Your Phone

2. Do More Things In Person

3. Take Off Your Headphones

4. Find Structured Social Activities

5. Embrace the Awkwardness
Pedestrians waiting to cross the street in New York: A photo by David Elikwu
Photo: by David Elikwu, in New York

Reading list

Books I’ve read/seen/will impulsively buy and add to my “to read” shelf on Goodreads:

  1. The Future of Feeling by Kaitlin Ugolik Phillips - wishlisted.
  2. Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha - impulsively bought. Stumbled across this gem while trying to find more fiction by Asian authors.
  3. Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory - seen. I stole this from someone’s Goodreads list. Thanks, stranger!

Things I’m loving

Films and shows:

  • Hamilton - still? Yes. Always. Also, I found this amazing review which perfectly encapsulates my feelings.
  • Superbowl LIV - As a 49ers fan, I made the decision to stop watching all NFL broadcasted games after Kaepernick was dropped and blackballed from the league. However… we finally made it back to the Superbowl after missing out almost 10 years ago so I’ve got to watch it.

Apps:

  • TopCashback just helped me get cashback on something I was already getting a discount on so I’m definitely smiling as I recommend this. They also have a chrome extension so you’ll be notified if there’s cashback available on any site you’re on. You can get an extra £5 for free using this link :)
  • I’m in dire need of Duolingo accountability partners and have decided that this, of all the years I’ve said the same thing, will be the year I finally get back into regular French and Mandarin practice. Please add me as a friend and let’s compel each other to multilingual greatness!

Misc:

  • Those new spicy nuggets at McDonald’s? They slap. Tell ‘em I sent you!

Resources

  • Pocket - if you’re ever stuck trying to print recipes from the NY Times and keep getting slapped with the paywall, just open the page and send it to Pocket before you start scrolling to get access to the full page! :)
  • This is a really good website for improving your touch typing. Now (in emergencies only obviously) you can reply to WhatsApp messages from your laptop while looking around the room attentively during long meetings.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for next week.

Until next time!!

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