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February 24, 2013

KNISELY: Make the world go away

— There was a winter storm last week. You know how I know that? I checked my newsfeed on Facebook.

Some friends talked about the extent of the storm: “Wow! There’s at least an inch of ice on everything.”

Some friends tried to be helpful: “Be careful out there. It’s really slick.”

And some friends opted to just state the obvious: “It’s snowing.”

There was even one friend complaining about other friends talking about the storm on Facebook.

Regardless of how they did it, it seemed as if everyone was talking about the weather on Facebook.

When there’s a gap in a conversation, most people will go to the weather to fill the silent air.

It’s the most generic topic you can discuss with someone. It’s the lowest common denominator of conversations.

The difference is there’s no awkward dead air to fill when the conversation is happening online. It’s not as if you have to say something or it’s awkwardly silent.

Is empty space in our newsfeed the same as empty air in a conversation? All this made me wonder: Are we incapable of silence in any capacity?

The world is becoming so loud. So loud, in fact, that we make noise to muffle noise. We put on headphones connected to our iPod so as to not hear the sounds of the world around us. We use self-created sounds to avoid distractions and be able to focus on what we want. Regardless, noise is noise. Even if it’s white noise.

Is this why we can’t handle silence?

We have our radios in the car. Our TVs in the house. Our many consoles for video games. Our smartphones so we’re never without YouTube.

Is this why we can’t handle silence?

I don’t know what caused the problem, but there’s definitely a problem, even if I’m speaking for myself.

I went through a weekend retreat a few years back. There was a silence segment where no one was allowed to talk and all were asked to make as little noise as possible for the last few years before bed on the first evening.

The purpose, they told us, was to close our mouth and ears and open up our hearts and minds. At first it sounded like mumbo jumbo, but it turned out to be an educational evening. I found I don’t do well in silence — and I wasn’t alone. My fellow retreaters shared in my struggle with silence.

So is the problem getting worse as the world gets louder? Or does it just seem worse because it’s now permeating Facebook?

I don’t actually know. I’m just asking.

Heck, I don’t even know what we did before Facebook.

But in the case of the weather, I’m pretty sure we just looked out a window.

Misty Knisely is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5155 or at


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