These days, conversation just might be the 2013 version of texting. 

Then, again, a second talk trend seems to contradict that. 

One positive we’ve noticed, personally and in the media:  Encouraging, even engaging all around the table in hearty dialogue during mealtimes. “The family that converses together, stays together” is how the adage might play out. And families and couples, from the Obamas to, yes, Joe the Plumber and his peers, tune up the conversations at dinner.  Some focus on more meaty subjects, like politics and the state of the green world.  Others, simply on sharing the day’s events.  There’s no right or wrong way, say proponents, to talk.  Just do it.  Minus the television, cell phones, video games, and other tech distractions.

Trend two:  Casual restaurants (Applebee’s, Chili’s, even P.F. Chang) are installing mini-screens at the tabletop, offering diners the options to order, play games, and pay.  And not communicate.  Quite a few of these pilots claim great success in driving more frequent table turns, increasing dessert orders, and helping determine if the kiosks will become more permanent profit centers.  Parent reactions are mixed; waiters, even more so.  In this not-so-giving economy, we get it:  It’s time to continue seeking additional sources of revenue. 

We as proponents of the art of talk aren’t thrilled with the advent of diningIT.  There are good and valid reasons for eating outside the home, whether it’s a choice of more Top Chef-like menus (sorry, Mom!) or simply a relaxing escape from daily cooking.  Inserting technology into the experience negates personalized service offered by wait-persons and eager-to-serve counter people and, most important, limits our human interactions.

We know it’s hard enough to get managers and employees to talk casually and meaningfully with each other about work that matters.  So advocating that anyone adopt another tech-y habit is akin to endorsing “no talk zones” … everywhere.  Or is it enough to endorse the art of dialogue, as does Robert Louis Stevenson?  “Talk is by far the most accessible of pleasures. It costs nothing in money, it is all profit, it completes our education, founds and fosters our friendships, and can be enjoyed at any age and in almost any state of health”?