Submitted Thursday, May 8, 2014
“People change and so do the times”, they say. But when is that moment when we can actually look back and see the change? And when is the moment when we should reverse the change?
When something comes into our lives, we are unable to fully grasp it at once. It slowly and gradually becomes a part of our daily routine and we soon forget that it’s something we didn’t have a couple of years ago. It’s something that we couldn’t foresee, because there really was no necessity for this specific change in the first place.
Who would have thought that 10 years ago our communication would change drastically within a few years? I mean, yeah, right, through the centuries there were many changes in the way people socialised, communicated and connected.
Writing was invented a long time ago, but only much later did people start to use letters as a means of communication. I think this was one of the first steps of the process that caused relations between two people to become more and more impersonal—people no longer needed to be in front of each other to express their feelings and share their thoughts (albeit they still did).
With the invention of the telegraph and, later, the telephone, this process of impersonalisation within the relations became more visible and more powerful. When the Internet walked into our lives, communication between people changed again. Now, like never before, the vital power of being face to face with the people we talk to is being lost. Apart from chatting online and exchanging thousands of messages weekly (which I used to be guilty of too), we’re now implementing these ways of communication in real-life conversations and talks.
Have you noticed that when gathering with friends, the style and flow of conversations resemble our chats on Facebook or Whatsapp? While chatting online with someone, people can do whatever they want while they’re waiting for a reply. They could be watching a film or reading/writing a blog or talking to 10 other people. And it seems to me that real life, with our help, is now copying Internet rules and mannerisms.
People meet with their friends in bars and restaurants, which I suspect they’re doing only because it’s, well, a tradition. If they thought about it, I’m sure they’d find lots of reasons to stay at home, where you can “talk” to your friends using your computer or phone, and where the Internet is faster. But in case you really do meet with your friends and pay attention to the way these meetings are going, then it’s quite obvious—something is different, if not absolutely wrong.
You are all sitting around the table and more likely occupied with your phone than with other people’s stories. It’s the norm to get a short comment or a symbolic “like” (a nod, or a smile) after you finish telling your friends about something, instead of a detailed reaction to what you’ve just said. Then the next one starts talking, and it’s perhaps your turn to check your social media profiles. I think by now you have an idea of the vicious circle that communication between people has come to.
Conversations are becoming more and more brief and insignificant. You don’t really see a lot of proper discussions today. You don’t often witness a group of friends (younger than 30) looking loudly for a solution to a big philosophical or political problem nowadays. These conversations require time and they can’t include those snap remarks so common to the Internet. And that’s understandable: people can’t afford to have such talks when they need to reply to three different people at the same time on Whatsapp; when they need to check their Facebook page… People simply aren’t able talk longer in real life than they would type in one message (and surely, they can’t type too long because there are other people waiting for them to type in their chats).
The online messaging syndrome has flourished brightly in our offline lives. The way we think and behave is very similar to the “like”, “share” and “comment” buttons on the Internet.
If we want this to change, we need to erase the concept of instant messaging from our heads. We need to avoid conversations in which people prefer monologues and short comments only. We need to learn how to talk the way our parents and grandparents used to talk. And more importantly, we need to learn how to listen (and it doesn’t include the simultaneous checking your of phone while someone else is speaking).
Don’t chat. Converse.
Inspired by the YouTube video “Look Up”