It was the latest light-hearted debate to dominate Twitter. Small ‘Tube Chat’ badges were appearing on the London Underground, encouraging people to talk to strangers on their morning commute. Nevertheless, it was something which posed a threat to the silence travellers have gotten used to for years, but will the scheme actually work?
Britons have their own sense of awkwardness when it comes to communication. It’s a sociological enigma which we’ve all grown up to accept, and one which journalist Rob Temple explores in his book and Twitter account, Very British Problems.
Being so heavily manifested in ‘Britishness’ and British culture, it’s unlikely that the taboo surrounding talking on public transport will ever go away. Most of us still prefer online conversation through perfectly edited emails, tweets or Facebook messages. Yet weirdly, the larger debates which take place on sites such as Twitter may provide a solution for problems with communication in real-life. In particular, memes could help prompt discussion on public transport – whether you like it or not.
Small talk is awkward for most of us and that’s what stops us from complimenting someone, saying something helpful or otherwise. Conversations without substance die out quickly, and we’re left wondering whether to return to the uncomfortable silence, or to try and revive the dying discussion. Topical chats last forever – we all know how easy it is to talk about the weather.
The discussion on Twitter has turned the badge into a meme, a symbol for a wider debate. For those who choose to wear the fashion accessory on the underground, they will get the ‘tube chat’ they want, but expect the conversation to be about the badge itself.
If anything, ‘dabbing’, Boaty McBoatface and Harambe have all proven how memes and online conversations can move away from the keyboard. Commuters on the London Underground may not be keen, or realise it yet, but the Twitter debate around these new badges will be making its way offline to a tube carriage near you very soon.