Daily conversations nowadays happen with technology in between the people conversing. Instead of eye-to-eye contact, eyes are fixed on the screen. Instead of seeing genuine reactions, emojis are sent to express feelings and sentiments. Instead of hearing loud, real laughter, 'LOL' is typed, and instead of fixing one's attention on a good conversation over coffee and food, one multitasks, talking to so many people all at once both face to face and online, eyes on the screen while ears listen to another.
Birthday greetings and congratulations are now GIF cards, sent in a second, so is responding "Thank You." Work instructions and office concerns are sent via email or Facebook messenger. Feelings and thoughts are expressed via photos posted on Instagram with a short caption or a tweet. Conflicts and differences are left unsolved because conversations would rather be avoided. After all, a message online is enough.
One-on-one conversations, heart to heart talks seem to be rare these days though one will say that the connection is never lost and that communicating through the internet and social media is better than no communication at all.
Is it really?
Sherry Turkle, author of books Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age and Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each in an article by The Atlantic, "I can't, in restaurants, not watch families not talking to each other. In parks, I can't not watch mothers not talking to their children. In streets, I can't not watch mothers texting while they're pushing their children."
A psychologist and a professor at MIT whose primary academic interest is the relationship between humans and technology, Turkle concluded that it is not that people are not the talking anymore. In fact, she said, the world has never been this talkative in so many ways. The world is actually talking all the time. It's just that people are talking at each other and not with each other anymore, and there the problem lies - this talk, without gazing at one's eyes, without seeing the genuine reaction, without gentle and affirming touches compromises real conversation.
"We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. We've become accustomed to a new way of being "alone together." Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. Human relationships are rich; they're messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it's a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference," the author said in an article she has written for the New York Times.
According to Denison Forum, it has been the worst since the pandemic. In a survey released in 2021, three-fifths of the participants expressed that social distancing had people turn their backs on conversations, with 75% saying that wearing masks made it so difficult for people to understand each other.
Is Conversation Dead?
Turkle further declared that the world is tempted to think that these little online connection "sips" can equate to real conversations, but the truth is, they will never do. Technology and social media have been a big help in a lot of areas in people's lives. However, they will always fail to be a substitute for conversation.
In another article from The Atlantic, the author shared about the "growing discontent" of the public. Children are begging their parents to focus on them during dinner instead of on their phones, and friends are left feeling neglected while conversations are put on hold as people disappear to whatever technology is in their hands.
She then prescribed the daily "sacred spaces" - prioritize and be intentional in carving out sacred spaces for conversation in everyday life. Let there be no devices at the dinner table, have a date, celebrate or gather somewhere that's wi-fi free, let go of the "myth of multitasking" as it is not efficient but only robs empathy, embrace "unitasking" instead, focusing on one thing at a time, and resist the idea that technology is a universal tool that can replace everything because it cannot.
Face-to-face conversation is a beautiful thing as we get to be fully present with one another. It is where we learn to listen and empathize. It is where we experience the joy of being heard, being understood, and being loved.
It teaches patience. When we communicate through digital devices, we want faster replies and so people ask simpler questions, and "we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters," the author said.
Also, the world must utilize conversation with others to learn to converse with one's self. Thus, departing from conversation can lessen, if not erase, the opportunity for self-reflection.
"These days, social media continually asks us what's "on our mind," but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective. Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It's hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect," Turkle boldly stated.
The Power Of Spoken Words
Denison Forum positively stated, nevertheless, that the art of conversation may be declining but it is not dead yet. Spoken word may have lost much of its appeal but it will never lose its power.
In the beginning, God spoke and His words were able to create the heavens and the earth. This is an undying testament that spoken words have power, and Christians believe and know this.
Opening one's schedule to do one-on-one conversations and heart-to-heart talks, taking the time to listen and emphathize, face-to-face counseling and giving of advice, offering embraces and a shoulder to cry on, these are what Christians are called for, these are reflections of a believer's Christlikeness because Jesus made conversations a priority. In fact, his arrival ended the "400 years of silence." God did not speak to the Israelites for 400 years and they were lost and spiritually dead, until Jesus came, spoke, and became the Word of life.
"For when God wanted to speak to the world, His primary mode of communication was not a tweet or memo or message in a bottle. God, in His ultimate form of communication, does not send words, but a Word-Himself. If God wanted us to merely have words on paper, Mary would have written a book, not have a baby," quoted from the book Jesus Speaks.
Jesus had daily conversations with everyone. He would set aside work for conversations that He knows can lead to healing, redemption, and salvation. He had conversations even with His enemies, He would rebuke them and would embrace them in His love.
Proverbs 18:21 declared, "Your words are so powerful that they will kill or give life."
Use the power of words wisely today. Set aside those smartphones. Meet someone and have one of the best conversations. Bless, build up and speak life. Get away from the dangerous bubble of just settling for online conversation. Converse and be a reflection of Jesus.
Related Article: Pastor Kim's Daily Prayer: The Power of Wise Words and a Happy Heart