screen time

Extremely Specific Talking Points for Reentering Society

Crypto, the Kardashians, and Halston. Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Netflix, Getty Images

Now more than ever, people are experiencing fashion through their phones. In “Screen Time,” fashion writer Emilia Petrarca shares all the screenshots, double taps, and swipes she made this week.

This week, I went to a proper, real-life event. There was a guest list and publicists with iPads checking people in at the door, and even an open bar that you had to slide between bodies to reach. It was my first time doing something like this in over a year, and I was as excited as a wide-eyed teenager who thinks that prom is going to be the best night of her life.

Of course, I tried on everything I own before going out. I wanted to be dressed up, but not too dressed up. I wanted to wear one of the many items I’d purchased during the past year that I imagined I’d debut at a party to Yankee Stadium-level cheers and applause. But as it turns out, the best self-esteem boost is not fashion; it’s schmoozing! Even typing that word just now gave me a pleasure zap. I’d forgotten the thrill involved with being jostled from one conversation to the next, and having to jump right in like it’s a game of double-dutch. Yes, all you really need to feel like the coolest, funniest, most interesting person in the whole entire world is a good conversation with someone new. And it’s free!

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. All anyone can talk about these days is how rusty they are at holding a conversation, which is, of course, not a very good subject of conversation. In my experience, I’ll ask someone how they’ve been out of habit, and then we’ll both make some joke about where to even begin, and then there’s an awkward silence where we either decide to take the jump together and dive into something real, or just go through the motions of “Ahh, we’re having a conversation!” and hit the real-life “END MEETING FOR ALL” button as quickly as possible.

The good news is that people seem to have a lot more compassion for fumbled interactions these days. We’re all just happy to be interacting, period. The bar is incredibly low. But, my friends, we should not settle for bad conversations!!! Especially when a good one can make you feel like you’re on drugs.

In a way, having a great conversation is a lot like putting together a great outfit. There’s a bit of performance involved, and it tends to land best when it’s in service of your personality. You need interesting contrasts. Balance. Context is important, although you never want to be predictable. A layer of mystery is good, but there should always be something for people to grab onto; a way in.

Listen: I’m no expert, but I figured instead of curating stuff to buy to make you feel good, as I normally do, I could offer some talking points to help you do the dance of conversation in the coming weeks.

Below is a list I made on my phone half-jokingly the night before my birthday party a few weeks ago. I shared it with my “Close Friends” on Instagram, and you’d be surprised how many of these subjects came up naturally over the course of the day. I would also add: “Whether or not you would buy a bidet.”

People seemed to find it useful, or at the very least amusing, so I put out a call for more, because mine were by no means definitive or that great. Here are some suggestions I received:

  • The hottest celebrity you wouldn’t sleep with, and the ugliest celebrity you would sleep with
  • Crypto
  • Scamming (see above)
  • Whether or not there should be a Bennifer revival
  • Which vaccine is the “best”
  • Hobbies you started and then promptly gave up
  • Something you saw on TikTok that you lie and say you read in an article
  • The last clothing item or accessory you bought
  • The best and worst grocery stores
  • What you would wear to the Met gala

There are a million lists out there for good conversation starters, and tips for how to get the ball rolling. We still rely on Proust’s famous questionnaire as a sort of meet-cute Bible. But the best conversation starters — or the ones that I find to be the most fun — are the ones with some sort of risk involved. What’s the thrill in asking someone about their morning routine? Or rehashing trivial subjects that have already been beaten to death on Twitter? After the year we’ve had, people want more than just interaction; they want intimacy! And I believe we can get there if we just, well, get to the point.

So here’s my final suggestion: Ask someone who they’re in love with. The only rule is that it cannot be a significant other. If this feels corny, then the next best thing you can talk about is what corniness even means and whether or not it’s a bad thing. I’m telling you, it’ll be great.

Other Stuff I’m Talking About RIGHT NOW

Let’s call it conversation kindling: It’s not the good stuff, but it’ll get you going.

These Enormous Pants

This Video That Is Hilariously Banal

This Glamorous-Looking Show That Premieres Next Week

Daily Average Screen Time This Week: 3h51m

Down 23 percent from last week.

Extremely Specific Talking Points for Reentering Society