How an App Made Me a Better Person
I'm very funny. It's probably a defense mechanism developed during my tenure as a 96 pound high school freshman. And all the years of awkwardness that went before and came after. I know I'm funny because a lot of people tell me. Empirically speaking. I'm hilarious. Put me in the middle of a crowd and I can entertain with stories, jokes and of course the ever popular making fun of other people.
Banters was a webapp that let you record your conversations, both offline and online, in a simple and shareable way. It sounded like a great way to showcase my talent. I quickly got to work cataloging and sharing my snappy comebacks and one-liners. Making a sarcastic comment from the corner of a classroom is of course much different than doing it on the Internet, so I had to work hard for my likes. But soon enough I had gotten the attention of some of the developers and a cofounder of Banters.
A trend emerged, and I noticed that all of my Banters always ended with something I said. I looked at my Banters feed and saw a long wall of pictures of myself and my own words. Could it be that I was the only person saying anything of note? Probably not. So I made the conscious decision to spend a week cataloging conversations in which I wasn't an active participant. I started by just looking for funny things that I hoped would get "likes".
But as I got more involved in listening to people, I began writing almost everything down. And I saw the meaning behind the words people were using.
I'm sure this is common knowledge to most people, but when you spend your life waiting to jump into a conversation with a joke or to turn someone's words around on them, you aren't really listening to the other person. There is a depth of connection that you rob yourself of when you don't sincerely listen to someone who is sharing with you. Words carry weight beyond their lexical definition.
Really listening to someone means you understand that emotional context underneath the words. I wouldn't say that I'm totally cured. I still like to tell jokes. But I make an active effort to listen to everyone else in a conversation, whether it's work related or talking alone at the end of the day with my wife and kids.
The seemingly simple feature of this web app helped me realize I was missing out on all of this by being the funniest guy in the room. Thank you, Banters, for providing me a mirror to see my flaws. You've been offline for almost a year now, but you aren't forgotten.