The Earth Isn’t Flat, We Shouldn’t Be Either

I hate 3-D movies. The reasons are numerous:

  • They’re too dark. It’s like watching a movie with sunglasses on. (Because you are, literally, watching a movie with sunglasses on.)
  • In 999,999 movies out of 1,000,000, 3-D adds nothing to the experience.
  • They’re too dark.
  • They cost more, because the studios think we’re stupid enough to pay extra money for the “privilege” of watching a movie with sunglasses on.
  • They’re too dark.
  • Also, they’re too dark.

Unfortunately, 3-D is still a thing in at least Southeast Asia, where, as you might remember, we spend a lot of time. We happened to be there when Rogue One came out; I had to go see it again when we got home just to see it. The only movie I’ve seen in 3-D that was worth it was Gravity, and it was spectacular (my wife, who has a bit of motion sickness, was woozy on the way home from that one). For every other movie (including whichever one you’re thinking of asking me about), 3-D is Bad. Awful. Horrid. BAH!

But what about conversations?

Someone we know (let’s call her “Bob”1) is currently abroad studying a foreign language. Like most language schools, her school has several phases of instruction; the first is mostly learning words, the middle one(s) begin to piece sentences together and continue to increase vocabulary and start working on grammer, and the last one is story-based, where the students and teachers share their stories with each other and use that as a springboard for further expanding vocabulary, grammar, culture awareness, and everything in-between.

In the school, you typically have a different teacher for each phase. When Bob got to the last phase, her teacher turned out to be the same teacher she’d had for the first phase. After Bob shared her life story, her teacher said:

“Bob, you are no longer flat!”

What a wonderful phrase. And picture. The teacher meant, obviously, that where before their conversation had been “flat,” two-dimensional, only revolving around words and the occasional phrase, now they could talk about themselves and tell their own story in full sentences and paragraphs, and in so-doing they became “filled out” to each other. 3-D, in other words. And while it’s bad (BAH!) in movies, it’s wonderful in conversation.

I was struck as Bob was sharing with us that this is what has happened to dialog in America — it’s turned flat.

It’s turned flat because too much of our conversation is taking place on social media, and social media is a decidedly 2-D place. (One could argue most of it is 1-D.) It’s a 2-D place because we often don’t know who we’re talking to, so all we know are the flat words on the screen. It’s a 2-D place because there’s no room for 3-D, no time for 3-D, and for the most part no interest in 3-D.

It’s turned 2-D because even many of our conversations with friends take place over 2-D media (texts, email, FB posts), and it’s difficult for most of us to de-flatify the conversation even when the other side is a good friend. I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble over the years from being my 3-D sarcastic self in a 2-D media; it doesn’t always (ever?) translate well, even to those that know me. I was exchanging texts just last week with a good friend, and he texted something, and I responded to what he said, and he came back and said that was just his dry humor. Which, had we been sitting together over tea, I would (might?) have gotten, but in the 2-D world of texting, I did not.

It’s turned 2-D because we’re spending less time knowing others and being known. We’re too busy going, and doing, and posting, to sit in a 3-D space and talk to a 3-D person and turn the flatness into three dimensions of honesty and humor and struggle.

It’s turned 2-D because we often don’t want it to be 3-D. A 3-D conversation means we have to listen at least as much as we talk, if not more. A 3-D conversation, like the movies, is often darker than we would like. Unlike the movies, that darkness if sometimes necessary. It means we have places that need light, and the only way to get light there is to walk straight into them with someone who has some light to shine.

Let’s buck the trend. Let’s keep our movies flat, but our conversations, and lives, full.

  1. Inside joke.

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