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“Candid Call Centre” raises the questions: what is connecting and what is conversation?

Angel Chen has started a call centre where people can call in and discuss issues of importance to them — the kind of serious, economy, type stuff that we have become familiar with in blogs and tweets and forums. It’s an 1-888 number that people from all over North America can, and apparently do, call to discuss in a conversation with other people, live, in real-time, their opinions on stuff. I think this is brilliant. But more than that, it makes me wonder whether the explosion of opinion that the digital world has fostered, has anything to do with honesty, connectivity or conversation.

While I write this, or any blog, or any tweet or any comment on any forum, I am alone, expressing my viewpoint with no fear of actually being confronted by another opinion. Sure, I expect some response, in some cases a lot of response. But it’s not the same as the reaction that occurs when I say something to somebody live, especially in person, but also very much on the phone.

There’s something about the raw reality of being interrupted that makes conversation entirely different from anything that happens online. Even messaging is entirely different. It’s more immediate than blogging or commenting, or even tweeting, but I can still ignore the comments that I want to ignore. I don’t have to truly face the question: how am I going to respond here and now; what am I going to do if I am entirely wrong and the other person catches me out? (online I simply write off their critical comments as coming from misunderstanding my point, or I make a feeble attempt to explain my position and then become bored and do something else.

This is not conversation. This is not connecting. I’m not sure what it is, and I obviously can’t condemn it too strongly by way of this blog. But I can raise the point and in doing so, express my admiration for Angel. For the past few years social heroes have by definition had to make change through the power of the internet and social media. But, Angel shows that this has been short-sighted, and because of it I think we have lost the real meaning of conversation.

I would say get involved, call the Candid Call Centre and have a conversation, but I don’t know the number…the Star in their coverage of Angel and her breakthrough contribution, did not publish the number. Which is as telling as anything else…if it had been a website, you can bet they would have published the URL.

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