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Why I’m opting out of ‘the conversation’

How many times has this happened to you? You’re with a bunch of people, and they’re talking about Game of Thrones or the new Zinfandels and you’re totally lost. It used to be because you were culturally tone-deaf or just plain stupid. But no, in the Digital Age it’s worse. Now you’re not “part of the conversation.” And you feel shame. Well, take heart. I’ve made an important decision on this subject that may just offer a path for you too.

Here it is: I don’t want to be part of the conversation. That’s right. Leave me out of it. I’ll get along just fine, I think. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.

The conversation we’re all supposed to be part of is the evanescent topic du jour—the mandatory chatter at what used to be called the watercooler. At this point, however, that vanished social locus has expanded to fill all available analog and virtual space. And now whatever makes up “the conversation” blots out the sun, casting the rest of the mental landscape into night thanks to the ubiquity of our intrusive hardware.

Let’s look at some of its constituent parts.

Smart refrigerators, for instance. This is intimately linked to the “Internet of things,” which, as part of the “smart home,” is a very big part of the conversation. I’m tired of it. I don’t want to talk about lightbulbs that are more intelligent than I am. I don’t care to delve into the future of thermostats. You can go on about that stuff without me.

Also drones, both corporate and private. Have fun imagining a future where little aircraft buzz above our heads delivering fresh baby kale and AAA batteries to those in need, and taking pictures of our daily activities so the voracious data monster can serve us better, or just because we look funny in our swimsuits. Can anything stop it? Certainly not. That doesn’t mean I want to hear about it.

Next, the stupidity, greed, and fear that define that great and terrible Oz behind the curtain of our economy: Wall Street. It’s up! It’s down! Know why? I don’t. Neither do you. Yet people talk about it all the time, because if you don’t, you’re not part of the conversation. Guess who’ll be tuning it all out from now on? That’s right: me.

And I will particularly not miss skipping endless speculation about anything having to do with China, because it immediately devolves into a conversation about, that’s right, Wall Street again, as the great irrational engine of capital heaves up a hair ball ­every time anybody over there ­sneezes. Not to mention Greece and Spain. I told you not to mention them!

Which brings us to what’s trending on Twitter (TWTR). Like, right now it’s a picture of a cute young woman who took her high school graduation picture at Taco Bell (YUM), and a shot of a floating manatee. I can live without them. I also don’t need to converse about who is being slowly roasted over the open fire of digital outrage today. Oh, and Bitcoins. You can shut up about those too, at least to me. Crooks. The Duggars? I can’t even.

Wow! What a rush! I can feel my brain clearing, the wind whistling between my ears where all that residual effluvia once took up space!

Hey, I can’t believe I almost forgot. I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t opt out of any further conversation about He Who Shall Not Be Named and his effect on the Republican Party. It’s possible it won’t even be an issue by the time you read this. But actually? I doubt that. Sometimes the conversation takes on a life of its own no matter what any of us try to do to control it. Or ignore it.

On the other hand, maybe by now none of these conversations are the conversation we’re all supposed to be having, because that’s the nature of “the conversation.” It swirls. It lands. It eats everything. Then it moves on. Like locusts.

That said, there’s no reason we can’t talk about other things. Let’s get started.

Um … you go first.


A version of this article appears in the September 1, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline “Opting out of ‘the conversation.’ ”