Science and technology

Wednesday, 18 January, 2017 - 12:55

Communication - a thing of the past?

by LucyBlogger

'You know,' said one of my students to me. 'Mega sad face.'

The fact that I could barely understand a student of mine, who's usually quite articulate, got me thinking about communication and the years to come. 

We all think we communicate all the time, and that's true. There's also non-verbal communication you could add into the mix - everything we're saying when we're not saying anything. But there's a fine line between saying things to people, or liking and sharing a post on social media, and communication. I'm quite well connected - there's Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, email, iEverything(!), but sometimes communication starts to feel like a chore. Check this blog post, read that article someone shared, text back to someone else and answer their question ... Sometimes I feel like a cross between Siri and a mad juggler. Nothing seems to go in and I'm always mixing people up - asking someone how their band is going when they can't play an instrument or how the job search is going when someone's just written to say how depressed they are that they can't find a job. 

So it was quite a shock to spend New Year in the Highlands in Scotland with no phone signal, no internet and no 'communication' at all, apart from with the people I was with. Suddenly all the pressure to communicate disappeared. All of our conversations became slower, more inverted and far more interesting. We were a group of 12, a mixture of couples and friends, only one of whom I was at university with, so I was meeting a bunch of new people for the first time. Our conversations veered towards the banal and the humdrum in that we often discussed our plans for the day and what we were going to cook in the evening, but often they went a lot farther and a lot deeper. Tucked up on the leather sofas, digesting dinner, we dissected Brexit and one person even changed their perspective entirely! We shared ideas and theories, plots of books and plays and city trips we'd been on, described family troubles and gave advice, listened to work scenarios and offered pointers, and we had to talk and sketch and use words more than ever before, because you couldn't say, 'It's a great film, you should google it later.' Some of us even had sore throats from talking so much! In such a short space of time, due to the proximity of sharing interconnected cottages and verbal communication, I felt much closer to the new people I'd met and been speaking with than some other people I communicate with in my normal life. 

I don't think our common, current methods of communication come close to being in a small house with lots of people and having to communicate live. The brevity of Twitter, the showiness of Facebook, all these aspects contribute to a shallow form of communication that doesn't challenge you to examine your feelings and motives enough. 'Liking' something is an instant response but what does it really say about your opinion of something? It's an identical response to millions of other people, whereas you and your thoughts are unique. If we're not careful, perhaps we might forget how to communicate on a deeper level.

And what did my student mean? Were they distraught? Panicked? Melancholic? I'll never know. 

Language level

How might growing up with social media affect the next generation's ability to communicate? 

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