Coffee Talks: Unplug to plug in


For the past couple of weeks, I have had the unique opportunity to participate in conversations with some of the most genuine people I have ever met.

I started this week with three different interviews. Well, college happened and all three interviews fell through. So instead of interviewing one of our amazing students, I decided to interview all USM students at once.

Everyday starts the same, in a mad dash from my bed to my car. No time for breakfast, I’ll take a coffee to go. I wasted too much time lying in bed, scrolling through Facebook, checking Instagram or answering Snapchats.

Even though I just checked them before falling asleep, there should still be new things to look at. I’m in the car now, driving just a little too fast to get to a class I signed up to take just a little too early.

How do I pass the time? I skip through songs on Spotify.

It’s 8:57 a.m. as I pull into the gravel parking lot. I pass by four other students walking to class. One has headphones in, one has no backpack, one wears heels and one has pink hair. They all look at their phones as they walk by, and I speak to none of them.

When I walk into class at 9:02 a.m., I take my seat just as the teacher begins to lecture. I whisper a “hello” to the girls that sit next to me. We exchanged confused looks and a few question as the lecture goes on. By the time it’s over, we’ve talked about how confusing the material is and how much sleep we didn’t get the night before. The lecture ends and we go our separate ways.

As I sit in my second class, I greet the guy beside me. He’s engrossed in his phone. He has earphones in, but they aren’t connected to anything. I wonder if he even hears me. I catch him looking at me sideways and decide it’s best if I just leave him alone.

The end of my second class sends me to Starbucks, where I will pass the time until my next class. I wait in line behind a girl wearing her sorority shirt and converse. I wonder how she gets her hair to grow so long. I wonder why the line is taking so long. The barista is talking about how he lost his mom this weekend. Now I feel bad for being impatient. I give him a small smile as I hand him my credit card, and he hands me my coffee.

I spend the next two hours in Starbucks trying to find someone who wouldn’t mind giving an interview last minute. I didn’t find any takers, but I found lots of students who are just like me. One was talking to his mom on the phone. The other was stxudying for an exam they had the next day. A few were writing papers while some were simply killing time. Several students were on their phones. Most didn’t expect to be talked to.

I didn’t get an interview, but I did get deeper understanding of the student body as a whole.

We’re too plugged in to the people we’ve already met and not plugged in enough to those around us. We value our iPhone connection more than we value connecting to those around us. Now, this is not a “the world is ending,” “this generation sucks” rant because I am just as guilty of walking to class with my head in my phone as the next person.

The point is – don’t be so suspicious of people approaching you in person instead of on Facebook first. Meeting people can be weird, it can be awkward. Guys, the looks some of you gave me was enough to send me to the darkest corner in Starbucks. But the amazing part is is that I learned so much just by putting my phone down and listening.

The entire thing wasn’t a bust, because I did have some great conversations. You’ll just have to stay tuned to hear about those.