Unplugging from the zeitgeist makes it really hard to talk to people. (You’d think that six months of a completely overhauled reading life would have yielded a grander conclusion.) There are only so many times you can respond to someone’s well-intentioned conversation starter with “Sorry, I haven’t followed that story because it brought me no joy to do so,” or “I figured it wasn’t cosmically important for me to have an opinion on that, and since the topic didn’t interest me I didn’t bother to form one,” or “I have no idea what meme you’re talking about, because I used the time I was going to spend on Facebook to finish Boswell’s life of Johnson.”
You have no factoids to swap, because you no longer deal in factoids. No memes, no news bulletins, no hey-did-you-see’s. Topics not derived from the media should be safe ground, theoretically, but you’d be surprised how many of the reference points people use to understand their own stories come from stuff they’ve seen on Facebook or on TV.
Helen Rittelmeyer makes some good points about the role that light-reading serves in our day-to-day worlds. A couple years ago I began following sports again (I grew up as a sports nut and slowly moved away from them, lacking time or inclination to follow them), and I found my ability to talk to my male students increased greatly. If I know whether Payton Manning played well or horridly, it makes a difference.