I WAS reading G’s novel the other day and there was a ‘very minor’ (Sasot, 2017) detail that left me unsettled. At one point in the story, the call center agent bida had not engaged in “any real conversation in a month.”

The line triggered a barrage of questions in my head, and they all stemmed from this: what exactly makes a conversation real?

Is it a question of Proximity, i.e. how far is Person A from Person B? One may assert, quite expectedly, that a conversation via phone call is not as real as a conversation held face-to-face — do you agree with this?

Why so? Is it because there are nuances to conversations in person that voice calls don’t provide? Speech is a performance, after all, isn’t it? It involves more than just language, and elements like geographic space and body movement, from hand gestures to shifting intonations, allow for more layers of meaning, don’t they?

If I told you, for example, that “you look cute in your profile picture,” would it mean something more if you could also see my lips stretch into a smile as I say it? And would you feel differently if, say, you noticed that my eyes were avoiding yours, as if searching for a spot to linger on? Wouldn’t you wonder if I was trying to conceal something — embarrassment, or insincerity, perhaps?

Is realness, then, a question of Multiplicity of Meaning? Are conversations more dynamic, ergo real, if One Thing could mean Many Things? Obligatory small talks are easily considered not real, aren’t they? When the fast food lady asks you if she may take your order, you know exactly what she means, don’t you? And this all-too-familiar exchange is barely a conversation, isn’t it?

But does Certainty of Meaning carry no value at all? Spoken words are more nuanced, yes, but writing demands precision and accuracy in portraying one’s thoughts, doesn’t it? So, if Person A and Person B are exchanging letters, aren’t they having a conversation that’s just as real as real-life discussions?

Or does this become a question of Medium, i.e. how are the messages sent and received? If handwritten letters are a valid medium for a real conversation, what about chat apps like Messenger? Do silly banters on Facebook count as real? And if not, then why not? What makes typing impersonal? Must a conversation be personal for it to be real?

And if I told you I’m aware that all of this is plain overthinking, you will laugh at me, won’t you? Have you read Le Guin, by any chance? Have you read her Amoeba Sex metaphor for ‘magical conversations’? Baliw si gaga, isn’t she? Or maybe you didn’t find the inclusion of eukaryotic coitus funny at all? What, or who, was Le Guin thinking about when she wrote the piece anyway?

Do you agree with Le Guin, though? A good conversation — a real one — is a union that’s just as magical as creation, isn’t it? Do you often have real conversations these days? Do you miss them, or do you even long for them?

What if we see each other again, or maybe for the first time? What if, per chance, I decide to ask you one question — just one, nothing more — will you care to answer at all? #

The featured image is from Passion Pit’s “Constant Conversations”, a dope single that you may want to give a listen. I also apologize for the slew of grammar lapses in this post — I honestly don’t understand how conditionals work, huhuhu. Sorry, Grammar Nazis!


  1. Yerxen

    I remember your post re:friendship and wavelengths. Most of the time we enjoy conversations when we talk to people on the same wavelengths as ours. It might sounds like “wavelength racism” but some would consider chitchats as real conversations while others would look for a more intellectual and deeper exchange of ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. DJ

    Ang ganda nito! Tapos nag-overthink narin ako at inisip ko na nagandahan ako kasi ganito ‘yung tipo ng sulatin na hilig ko mismong isulat haha. The questions you pose here are the very questions that would stimulate me into a long conversation… though not necessarily a real one. 😛

    Not sure if you think the same way, but the obvious answer to me is that real conversations involve emotional vulnerabilities. ‘Yun bang, if real writing involves something that scares thy self, and if writing is really just carefully-considered conversation, edi real conversations should be scary too.

    In that sense, I don’t have real conversations often these days, but that’s fine because it would be tiring for me.

    School of Life says it well:

    (Disclaimer: I don’t endorse everything that School of Life preaches, but I find myself agreeing with them a lot on these kinds of topics.)


    — That Brain Pickings article on Le Guin echoes part of the book I’m reading now, Walter J. Ong’s Orality and Literacy.

    — I had this idea that reaction videos on YouTube to stuff like big Game of Thrones moments and Jollibee ads address the desire for community-building lost when people stop watching TV and movies together, and start watching alone, streaming stuff on small screens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jolens

      Napaisip din tuloy ako sa isasagot ko, haha.

      I suppose if we define realness as the capacity to establish deep, personal connections then yes, emotional vulnerabilities are key. Sharing “feelings” over facts and going beyond “bland administrative chat” are indeed important aspects of a real, intimate conversation. Ayoko rin masyado ng ganito; nahihirapan kasi ako.

      I also agree with other pointers from the video, but I don’t like how they’re all premised on the rarity of a “satisfying” conversation. I think conversations can be satisfying without delving into deeply personal shit, and they can also go beyond the “surface of events” without being explicitly about ourselves and our inner struggles. (Kung ako ‘yung lalaki sa video na namatayan ng nanay, siguro iirapan ko lang ‘yung ateng makulit. Grabe, mas dense pa sa krudo ng BP oil spill!)

      And I like what you said about real writing and real conversations being scary. Parang ‘yung sinabi ni Franzen (favorite mo!): “To publish an honest essay is, always, to risk shame.” Naks.

      True din ‘yung insight mo on reaction videos — oo nga ano? Can this be extended (or possibly rooted?) to gaming culture as well? Uso rin ang gaming videos e, ‘yung hindi walkthroughs o guides. I think applicable din sa video games ‘yung idea ng re-building a sense of community now that many forms of entertainment are designed to be experienced in separate, individual units. Hmm.

      Nakahanap pala ako ng kopya ng Orality and Literacy, babasahin ko! Naghanap din ako ng screenplay ng daldal-heavy films (Before Sunrise at Pulp Fiction); will browse and see how the dialogs compare to the points we’ve laid out here. Dami kong time grabe, hahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

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