After sharing something with a friend in a call today, I waited for their response for a few seconds before the absense of any sound coming through the line began to raise fears that technology had disconnected us. "Are you still there?" I asked. "Yeah, just thinking," they replied.
I was reminded of this passage I saw recently in The Life and Death of an Internet Onion:
The three bouncing dots on iMessage don’t really have an IRL equivalent, because taking the time to think about and respond carefully to someone in a spoken conversation would be considered too “slow” or stilted.
While many of my friends speak in this slow careful way, I've noticed I fill silence quickly. Sometimes I worry people want to participate in conversation but are unsure what to say, and I hope that by saying something off the top of my head - even if it's silly and boring - I can create a jumping-off point for satisfying conversation.
But am I taking up space better left unfilled?
What if I slowed down?
Took refuge in a pause?
Perhaps I'd get to hear a friend's response that I'd have otherwise missed out on. Perhaps someone shy would speak up when they would've otherwise just let me speak. And maybe I'd even think of something more useful or interesting to say than the first thing that came to mind.
During this call with my friend, I experimented with taking time to pause to formulate thoughts. Unfortunately, most of these thoughts were something like "wow I'm letting there be silence wow ok" or "oh jeez the longer I wait, the more pressure there is to say something good". I imagine this would get easier with practice and experimentation, and I know pauses to think don't always have to be followed by an expressed thought.
Do I believe that pausing to craft careful conversation is the better course of action? Of course not - and I agree that it can feel "slow" or stilted. But I think it's a useful tool, and it's one I'd like to become more comfortable with.