How to Have a Real-Life Conversation When You’re a Social Media Addict, According to Going Deep’s David Rees

Getting off your phone can be harder than it seems.

By Seija Rankin Nov 11, 2015 10:46 PMTags
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There are a plethora of voices chiming in to remind our society how reliant we've become on technology and social media. No one's living in the moment! We can't sit still for one second! Have you seen how people don't even talk to each other at dinner anymore?

The cacophony exists because it's so, so true. But we're not doomed yet! Just ask comedian/writer/jack-of-all-trades David Rees. He's the star of his own show, Going Deep With David Rees, which aims to use (gasp!) real human interaction to find out all sorts of little-known facts about the seemingly monotonous tasks of life. Ever wondered the correct way to make toast or sign your name? Going Deep has your answer.

To promote the show's second season, which premieres tonight on the Esquire Network, Rees and a trusty team decided set down their cell phones and embark on a cross-country road trip the old-fashioned way—meeting people face-to-face and peppering cities with flyers as they went. The idea was based on the pre-Internet era (remember that?) when you actually had to get up off your couch to get stuff done. 

"It was what we did back in the '90s when we were promoting shows—you went out and put up flyers," Rees told E! "We were trying to think of what the Going Deep version of social media would be. My favorite part of the show is meeting people, so we decided to do just that."

The trip was just as analog as it sounds, but the result was that Rees and his companions learned a thing or two about something called real-life conversations. Most of us have forgotten the basics thanks to our over-reliance on emojis to convey our feelings, so we decided to probe David for his lessons on getting back to face-to-face. 

Rule #1: You don't have to give up social media. Let's all quit the panicking now! The secret isn't digging out an old rotary phone and sending carrier pigeons—just a tiny effort to use social media for something other than repeating all your meals will due. "The ironic thing is that I actually tweeted more during our analog tour than I do in my day-to-day life," admitted Rees. "But I was tweeting about something; saying 'Cincinnati, I'll be there tomorrow, where should we go?' It felt like real engagement with the world through Twitter."

Rule #2: Want to @ someone? Just call! Getting someone's attention on Twitter is as easy as pressing a button, but in real life you're going to need to press 7-10 buttons. Rees and his tour cronies left their cell number on their flyers to successful, if hilarious, results. "We wanted to let people at mention us the analog way, where you call them on the phone," he said. "A lot of times they would panic and hang up. Or tweet, like, 'I think David Rees just answered the phone, but I hung up and now I feel embarrassed."

Rule #3: When talking to real humans, lose the devices. David's biggest pet peeve? "Everyone looking at their phone all the time instead of being in the moment and just having the conversation. I've met friends through social media, but in the real world it gets in the way of being in the real world."

Rule #4: Don't get conversation cocky. "On social media, it's easier to insert yourself into a conversation that other people are having," explains David. "There's no bar to entry, or it's so low that people just weigh in on something that other people are talking about. It's the equivalent of when people just walk up to you at parties, like, 'Oh, I've seen that movie!'" In other words, when you're talking off social media, remember the age-old saying: This is an A and B conversation; C your way out.

Rule #5: But if you do wanna join the convo, just be realWe all get it—you're at a party, you're standing around nervously hoping someone will ask you to join a group conversation. Instead of butting in, invite yourself in. "I think the best way is to just walk up to a group with transparency and say, basically, 'Hey, what are you guys talking about?'" Boom.

Rule #6: A party prop is always valuableRees found the best way to get the talking ball rolling was to force people to ask him questions: "We would walk in someplace and say we're traveling across the country to promote a show and can we put up a flyer, and often times that was weird enough that people would be curious." But when in doubt, use a prop. "We also had our Make America Deep Again hats, and sometimes that led to a conversation—it was a prop conversation starter."

Rule #7: Always be curious. Finding topics to discuss with real humans instead of standing next to each other while texting is a brilliant thing, but it can also be intimidating. The secret: Share your enthusiasms. "I love being at a party and talking to someone who is an expert on something I only know a little bit about," David explained. "Say they work for a sock company...ask how they make socks. And then a light goes on and they're like, 'Oh, I'm gonna tell you about socks.'"

Rule #8: Shake hands, but not like Barack Obama. If you're approaching someone you don't know at all to attempt to start a conversation, it's best to leave the handshakes for the goodbye portion. You're not a politician, after all.

Rule #9: You can re-tweet in real life. It's called telling someone else about something you've heard. The novelty! "We got a call about a week after we'd been to St. Louis and the person said they'd been to a restaurant where we'd dropped off flyers, and the restaurant was so excited about the show that they were telling all their customers about it," said Rees. "Which is really sweet and nice, because it's the equivalent of a re-tweet, but it takes more investment than just clicking a button. You appreciate it more because it's a real human interaction."

Check out the premiere of season two of Going Deep With David Rees tonight at 10/9 central on the Esquire Network—but first, watch David get his mind totally blown in this exclusive clip from episode two.