The Death of The Watercooler Moment

Nearly ten years ago, two lines of script became part of a shared vernacular for TV fans the world over. Before May 6th, 2004, you could say these sentences and no one would have given you a second glance; after that date, the words became synonymous with true love everlasting, eliciting sighs and squeaks of sentimental warmth from anyone you said them to. Soon after that, you could only get half way through the first line before everyone in the room joined in with you in a moment of joyful nostalgia…

‘No, NO. Did she get off the plane? Did she get off the plane?!’

‘I got off the plane.’

Yes, the final ever episode of beloved US sitcom Friends (spoiler alert, although if you need that I’m going to have to assume you’ve been living under a rock for several years) featured the denouement of the decade-long romantic arc between everyone’s favourite on again/off again TVcouple, Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston)… And it was a beautiful moment. Perfectly pitched, completely surprising, gorgeously emotive without being saccharine or cloying, it had fans blubbing into their giant coffee cups and got everyone talking. No one could wait until the next day at work to discuss the events, to deconstruct what had happened to the six best friends we had taken into our homes on a weekly basis for ten long years.

But we had to; it was 2004… Doesn’t seem all that long ago, but there was no Facebook, no Twitter, not even everybody had a phone (lovingly called ‘mobiles’) back then. I was 12 and the only way I could get in touch with my friends was via the landline, and only then if no one was using the dial-up internet. This left us with very few options, meaning the accepted method of discussion was to just see everyone and discuss it the next morning. Used commonly in the vernacular back then, the watercooler moment is now demonstrably a thing of the past. Picture Ross and Rachel’s reunion were it to happen in 2013:

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In fact, we don’t have to imagine it… this post sets up Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) of New Girl infamy as the Ross and Rachel of the digital decade. The fact is it’s no longer necessary to discuss…. well, virtually anything, in person anymore. A communal space in which to chat about television, books, films etc, has evolved from the well-worn industrial carpet surrounding the water dispenser into a massive online forum in which to exchange ideas digitally. No one needs to hear your mouth speak the words when you’ve already tweeted, statused and snapchatted about it. So called ‘social’ media actually means that although your opinion reaches many more people than it used to, no real connection is ever actually formed from it. This concept is demonstrated perfectly in this video:

In the digital age, the space our thoughts inhabit is no longer real, at least not physically and as a result the reactionary process our brains undergo is changing. Suddenly, in the space of a decade, reciprocal conversation is becoming a thing of the past; everyone’s talking but no one’s listening.

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  1. #1 by Natasha on January 8, 2014 - 7:30 pm

    That last line sent a shiver down my spine. Brilliantly written, but I hope we never lose the true art of conversation and become like the people on the Axiom in WALL.E. It’s also really good that you tagged this post with loneliness as well. Just yesterday I read an article about this being one of the most debilitating diseases of the 21st century because no-one talks about it and with the up rise of social media, apparently we’re now lonelier than ever, which is ironic since it is supposed to be connecting us. Made me think, great post! I’ll read/comment on the others later 😀 – Tasha xxx

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