NEW YORK — Blackouts in lower Manhattan have revived an ancient practice: talking to other people without repeatedly looking at your smartphone.
When her dorm in Union Square lost power on Monday night, Elise Michael, a first-year student at the Cardozo School of Law, joined more than a dozen others in the cramped, candle-lit quarters of her friend’s room. There, they practiced the analog art of telling stories and paying attention.
“It was really nice to walk in and see a big group of people in a small space not looking at phones, not watching things,” said Michael. “I was close to most of the people there, but it was different. We shared more stories and more intimate stories than we would have otherwise.”
Once considered on the verge of extinction, face-to-face conversation, reading books, playing board games and even stargazing saw a resurgence in New York City this week thanks to spotty cell phone service, dark apartments and gadgets constantly in need of a charge.
Matt Field, who works at a Manhattan tech startup, acknowledged that the first 20 minutes he spent mingling with his roommates after the blackout were “awkward.” Left without TV, Wikipedia or anyone to text, Field passed the rest of his night doing something he joked he hasn't done since he was 5 years old: playing cards.
“We ended up staying up until 2 a.m. and spending five hours huddled around a coffee table with candles, talking,” said Field. “With the power on, we never would have bonded like that.”
Stopping at a diner to get hot chocolate, one 20-something Brooklynite even said she had migrated into Manhattan’s dark zone to enjoy the quiet that comes with being out of touch, expressing relief at the chance to “get a break” from the pressure of constant contact.