Do the preparation exercise first. Then read the text and do the other exercises.
Are we losing the art of conversation?
We asked four people who watched an online talk on technology and communication by Sherry Turkle for their opinions.
The talk certainly gave me plenty of food for thought about the way we communicate these days and how technology is changing our behaviour. People are constantly multitasking, whether it be emailing during meetings or texting in the checkout queue. I really believe it’s affecting the way we relate to each other and it’s not just in the workplace. Kids fade into the background as parents message at the dinner table or post on social networks during the school run. It’s as if we can’t bear to miss out on what our online buddies are up to, so we juggle the real and online world. My greatest concern is that we don’t give our brains a chance to switch off. It’s these precious moments when we actually process information that helps us make important decisions.
It was a fascinating talk and the speaker really hit the nail on the head with a couple of things. Take parental influence, for instance. How can we expect teenagers not to text while doing their homework when they witness their parents posting on social media while cooking the evening meal or waiting at a red light? She also made a valid point about people wanting to be in two or several places at once. So they switch back and forth between their real-life and online conversations. I see it all the time with my teenage daughter and her friends. They arrange to meet and then sit together in silence while each one engages in a different conversation online.
So much of what the speaker said rang true. I honestly believe there’s a danger that the more connected we are, the more isolated we feel. I don’t think this is such an issue for my generation who’ve lived without technology for so long. We know how to be alone and, more importantly, we know that it’s OK to be alone. But the under 20s are another kettle of fish. They’re so busy communicating that they never experience the feeling of solitude and run the risk of not learning how to enjoy their own company. In addition, they’re learning conversation through messages that can be edited and changed at the expense of learning the art of real conversation in real time with the person in front of you.
I’m not sure to what extent I agree that people are more alone, but the way we communicate has certainly evolved. We send tiny snippets of conversation or emoticons to each other and I wonder how much this actually allows us to really understand one another. This superficial conversation is replacing in-depth face-to-face interaction with its pauses, intonation and sentiment. The speaker makes a good point about how we’re getting used to conversing with machines like Siri or robots, which are totally devoid of any experience of human life. But despite such limitations, we seem to be expecting more from technology and less from each other.
Worksheets and downloads
Which changes in the way we communicate with technology do you think are the most important? Why? Do you prefer to communicate face-to-face or online? Why?