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Seven Easy Ways to Be Less Boring

The art of conversation is dying and it's up to us to save it.

by Robert Foster
22 January 2014, 12:40pm

(Illustrations by Will Laren)

They say the art of conversation is dying out – that it's a casualty of the digital age and we've been forgetting how to talk to each other since the advent of the Tamagotchi. But maybe blaming our own shitty chat on technology is a lazy excuse. Maybe the art of conversation is on its knees because everyone's been saying the same boring stuff to each other for almost a century?

It's up to us to salvage the situation. Old people only ever talk about starting wars, funerals and money and they're basically too busy staring into the abyss to come up with new ideas. Not that we're much better. "Youth culture" has been around for 70 years now, and yet the archetypal "young person" is still Holden Caulfield, a 13-year-old proto-alt published into existence the same year WWII ended.

The future is in our hands. It's up to us to keep life interesting and so what we need is a kind of conversational Year Zero, where a line is drawn in the dust and tons of tedious theories and lines of discussion are nixed from the collective consciousness so that we can start afresh.

Here are a bunch of things that we're done with – things that you should stop talking about if you don't want your life to resemble some hellish student union Groundhog Day.

Rein in How Angry You Get About the Tories
Youthful radicalism is super fun and sexy; ladies love Robespierre – that's a true fact, and has been for about 300 years. However, calling a centre-right party that just legalised gay marriage "Nazis" – or whatever totalitarian-themed epithet you're throwing around at the moment – is short-sighted and totally ridiculous, despite them implementing policies a lot of us don't like. Lemme break it down for you:

– Have the Tories ever used rape to socially control people?

– Have any ethnic Muslims been machine-gunned and thrown in a mass grave by the Tories?

– Has anyone ever been sectioned for disagreeing with Tory policies?

Those are some pretty Nazi-ish things that have happened/are happening during our lifetime, and – as it goes – the Tories aren't responsible for any of them. If you're super into having your very own Robespierre moment, there are plenty of genuinely horrible despotic regimes to get angry about. Sure, you might think the Tories are doing the best they can to make everyone think they're evil, but call everyone a Nazi, and no one's a Nazi.

In the face of real, actual human rights abuses, it's adolescent and spoilt to say that David Cameron is anything like Hitler or Stalin, and no one will take your opinion seriously if you're adopting the tone of a hysterical Baptist minister outside a mid-90s Marilyn Manson show. If you come across someone with a different political opinion to you, why not try reasoned, intelligent debate, like how grown-ups do? Billy Bragg and Boris Johnson went to a festival together and got along fine, so maybe you should just fucking get over yourself?

– – –

Stop Talking About How Much You Love Weed
If you're lucky enough for weed not to turn you into a twitching, paranoid shut-in who spends every Friday night exhausting 4oD's video library, then good for you. But guess what? When you talk about weed, you're still dull. Perhaps you think you're not because you don't ride that "fluoride-in-our-water" wave that lifestyle-stoners have traditionally bored people with over the years. But there's nothing worse than being trapped at a party next to someone who thinks it's acceptable to use the phrase "sticky-icky-icky" in a real-world conversation.

When you're not offering up monosyllabic opinions on various strains of "kush", you're whinging all the fucking time about a variety of injustices that have befallen you because you were late to work / forgot to pay a bill / missed a train / lost your wallet / can't get it up / ran out of weed. "Because I Got High" should never have been an anthem for weeknight Clio-hotboxing sessions; it sounds more like a very depressing, cautionary tale of how your life will turn to shit if you care as much about weed as Afroman.

Most importantly, by spending hundreds of pounds a month on a plant, you're not stickin' it to the man or getting into a creative frame of mind. At best, you're a botanophile with a really bad spending problem. At worst, you're a feckless loser who'd rather fall asleep alone at your laptop than socialise.

– – –

Try to Resist the Urge to Say You Know a Black Guy Who Supports Ukip
Ostensibly, this is a great thing to say if you're sympathetic to Farage and friends. Because a) It's evidence that you know and are on speaking terms with a black guy (which is important, as it "proves" that you're not the racist you appear to be because you support Ukip), and b) It adds credence to your assertion that immigration concerns are colour-blind.

All that sounds pretty watertight, sure, but all it really proves is that you know one idiot – who happens to be black – who got whipped into a frenzy about immigration like all the other idiots. Never mind that the whipping was conducted by a guy who opposes gay marriage, spent his youth being openly racist and runs a party that attracts the sort of person who believes compulsory abortion should be considered for foetuses with Down's syndrome or spina bifida.

Fuck you and fuck your idiot friend. Next!

Music Wasn't Better, Tougher or Realer "Back Then"
This year, I went to the Vans Warped Tour for the first time since 1998. You know what they had there that they didn't have in 1998? Fucking blastbeats! Every single band was playing blastbeats!

Forgive me for being an overgrown mall punk, but the bands that play the Warped Tour exist for the same reason that any other band, rapper or DJ aiming their music at kids does: to help them piss off their parents. If blastbeats aren't taking things up a gear from revival ska bands in the bumming-your-parents-out-with-your-music department, then what is? The Warped Tour was playing to the equivalent crowd both times I went, but in 1998 suburban teens were listening to this, and in 2013 they were listening to this.

It's exhausting that this still needs to be spelled out, but guess what? Your generation isn't special. Sure, it was special to you, but to everyone else? Not so much. If you don't like music right now it's because you're not emotionally invested in it like you were when you were 15. Probably because you don't need to be what with all the other things you have going on in your life. So why bang on about the "good old days"? No one cares, not least the kids having fun next to you because they aren't fretting about whether X or Y band is derivative or not.

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You Don't Hate Hipsters
You know who else hates young people who like music, fun and fashion? The Tories! There's no one more miserable than a self-identified hipster-hater. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols and Nirvana were all pretty hip in their day – wouldn't you be bummed if you'd spent your youth being a grump about those guys?

Sure, gentrification follows creatives and hipsters around, raises property prices, pushes locals out and yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm sure you've read the angry op-eds. However, surely going after the property developers who aggressively hike up prices might be better than demanding we curtail the rights of people to dress and act how they want? Because every time you demand that, you're essentially saying "WEIRDOS OUT!" and reminding us why both communism and fascism are terrible ideas.

Think about it: 40 years from now, when your grandkids are asking you what you did in your youth, are you really going to be pleased with yourself when you respond: "I spent a lot of time on the internet complaining about how other people had fun at parties I wasn't invited to"?

Let's hope not.

Don't Be a Foodie
If you've only been following pop culture for around ten years, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this recent obsession with food is something that's here to stay. However, if you've been around the block a few times, you should recognise it for what it is: another example of "[SOMETHING THAT ISN'T ROCK AND ROLL] Is the New Rock and Roll!" – a statement designed to create content for broadsheet weekend supplements and the retrospective talking-head TV shows of the future.

In the 80s, it was comedy; the 90s, football; the 00s, computer games. And now you're being conned into ruining meals out for yourself by turning them into a pissing contest. Food is nice and eating at nice places is nice, but only talking about the last place you ate out while you're eating out with people is the adult equivalent of getting really drunk and talking about how drunk you were the last time you got drunk. It's very boring, and no one cares apart from you (and possibly your terrible girlfriend you run a food blog with).

– – –

Your "Thing" Is Not As Interesting As You Think It Is
This is the crux of the article. Shouting about Tories, hating hipsters, being "rly sad about the state of new music", being consciously and vocally into food more than your body necessitates or anyone needs to hear – these are all things you're dressing up as Your Unique Thing that you've arrived at on your own.

Really, though, they're safe, well-trodden ideas that shouldn't still be buoying up your conversations or informing your identity today. They're done to death, pointless and irrelevant, and we need a new bunch of things to think and talk about.

But what are the new things going to be? For a start, maybe we could stop discussing politics like it's Pop Idol and not behave like an incredulous Jeremy Paxman type guy whenever we find out that a child enjoys the music of Justin Bieber.

See more of Will's drawings at his website

Tagged:
smoking weed
Vice Blog
Robert Foster
hating hipsters
being boring
calling the Tories Nazis
apologising for Ukip
being a moron
complaining about music
being a foodie