We need to talk

One of the subjects I took at uni was Knowledge, Ideology and Social Science (KISS).

This subject provided a critical analysis of the development of western knowledge structures such as modernity, and the philosophical and ideological assumptions underlying the social sciences and their impact on society. In simple terms, we looked at the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the birth of the scientific age. They were exciting times. The world was changing so fast.

One day the lecturer asked what might go through a person’s mind if they were snatched from their period and dropped into the 1990s.

The answers were fairly predictable: they would be amazed at our computers and other technology; means of travel; hearing that we’d walked Moon; our general wealth; our generally civil societies . . . all of which are probably true, of course.

But it wasn’t the answer the lecturer was looking for.

She said: “I think they’d be horrified to see that people don’t know how to communicate with each other any more”.

Over the years I’ve often mentally ridiculed her statement. Of course we know how to communicate. We have a phone attached to us wherever we go, we have email we can access at any time and we chat endlessly with people on Facebook and Twitter. But what do we do when we don’t have those luxuries at our finger tips? We feel like we’re shut off from the world. Some of us might read a newspaper or a magazine.

I bet none of us hop in a car and drive to a friend’s place for the mere pleasure of talking to them. I can’t remember the last time I did it.

My neighbour and I chat regularly . . . on Facebook. It’s so much easier than actually walking over and knocking on her door and dropping in for a chat. Goodness, life’s too busy for that! I’m too busy texting, typing, or Twittering.

The lecturer was right. The mademoiselle or gentleman from 1750 would be horrified at how we in the Age of Aquarius don’t know how to communicate any more.

What do you think?

77 comments on “We need to talk

  1. I must be the exception that proves the rule. I love to jump in the car and go and visit with rellies or friends. I’m very sociable and love to be around people. Having said that, I also love to spend time with facebook friends and have enjoyed meeting some of them in person. Even neighbours aren’t safe from me. It all makes for a full and happy life.

  2. “I bet none of us hop in a car and drive to a friend’s place for the mere pleasure of talking to them.”

    I still do, often and sometimes driving/riding a considerable distance.

    A small group of us from as far south as Tabourie and north as Kiama occasionally decide to go somewhere to meet just to shoot the breeze.

  3. I’d agree with the lecturer. Facebook and Twitter are not conversation, they are putting a thought out there (regardless of the “worth” of the thought) and then the number of “followers” sees the thought. The privacy aspect is also disturbing where future employers etc can assume that because (say) you have wild parties on the weekend or young kids you’ll have more sick leave. In a number of cases, the number of “followers” becomes a pissing contest to judge your “worth” in the world.

    It’s also annoying when you are actually talking to someone, they are constantly checking their “Smart” phone for the latest Twitter/Facebook feed – rather than communicating with you.

  4. Benign gossip is the glue that binds social networks and that works best face to face,
    over a cup of tea in daylight hours, and something bit stronger after 5. But this might be a generational thing Migs.

    In a coming Lamarckian world our young will have developed enormous thumbs, the better to rattle off SMS’s, at the expense of their tongue which will have shrivelled away to a vestigial knob, not even useful for licking an ice cream.

    Something I’ve noticed amongst my friends and acquaintances however is an increasing desperation, as if we’re all running out of time, to punctuate every golden silence with words, words, and more words.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that we are air breathing mammals, and need to draw breath from time to time, some of us wouldn’t get a word in.

    Some things have changed though: whereas once we lunged towards the bookshelf for help in settling an argument or to win a point, these days there’s always a smart phone handy, and google. So it’s not all bad.

  5. Communication, for me, is just bloody hard work. Even one on one. Groups, I tend to avoid…they are a frustration.

  6. I find that people seem to be more interested in what they have to say, than what someone else has to say. They simply don’t listen to others.

  7. I find it interesting though that in all of our rush to compulsively communicate that we have lost some of the ability just to be in the moment with our fellow human beings, you know just to share a cuppa and not feel obliged to have deep and meaningful conversations about “stuff”.

  8. I tend to avoid asking people ‘how are things going’ because almost inevitably they’ll reply with a whinge. People seem to be so negative these days.

  9. A number of years ago (mark that!) I would often just pick up the phone, dial an area-code number and punch the keys at random and talk to the person who answered the call about the weather there and small-talk in general…it was quite refreshing and once the person on the other end of the line got over any doubt about my motives, we would quite often just chat away….But I don’t think I would try it in this climate!

  10. Eric Berne (“Games People Play”) called that “two stroking” Iain.. the idle banter that friends and acquaintances exchange, just to let each other know that ‘all’s well’. Like dogs wagging tails.

    That can grow into a more lengthy conversation about the most banal things, but yes, it’s a lot more ‘useful’ as social glue than the deep and meaningful stuff (which can get annoyingly competitive).

  11. I’m Glad that you have posted your question. We have just returned from a visit that we make each year with my closest friend. We have been friends for about 40 years. We spent a lot of time catching up. He and his wife live about 3 hours drive from us and each time we meet even though it has been a while, we appear to pick up the conversation regardless of the length of time, as if it were 5 minutes ago!
    I hope you are able to get some of the answers you are looking for .

  12. I remember as a child, grand dad would take the boiling kettle that was always of the stove, make tea, by the time the car he heard reached the house. My recollection of the conversations that followed were about how neighbors and friends were traveling. Passing on of news that was occurring. Cannot remember people pushing their own opinions.

    Good manners seemed as important, as what one had to say.

  13. 2353 and,

    I’d agree with the lecturer. Facebook and Twitter are not conversation, they are putting a thought out there…

    . And I would agree with this, these are talking at people rather than with them. There are exceptions of course.

    Rabbit, I do know what you mean..people seem to think that being hearing impaired is the same as a visual problem, put on a pair of glasses/a hearing aid and it’s all fixed. Not so, it is communication which still presents difficulties..things such as getting into strife for misunderstanding.

  14. Years ago I was with a friend’s daughter who was talking at 400 miles an hour. After she’d finished – about 45 minutes later – she commented how much she’d enjoyed our chat.

    I don’t recall getting a single word in.

    All I did was listen. Listening is important.

  15. I am a technologist and spent my formative working years from 81 in the change from analogue to digital technology specifically in telecommunications. I saw the writing on the wall long ago. A select band of young digital upstarts were testing what this technology was capable of, as were our brothers across the globe. We hacked, we reversed engineered whist our Luddite bosses, the feds and Joe public had no idea and were incapable of understanding the scope and potential of what we were doing. We had our own digital sandpit called cyberspace. The Feds did not even have computers; it was very cool and very exciting.

    I worked for a major Australian telecommunications manufacturer who was ao make money out of the ahead of the world in digital wide area networking and each day I would have lunch with a peer and we would discuss how to make money and what was possible. I left IT because everyone is in on the caper and everyone is an expert. My dear friend who has now passes told me thatb by the year 2000 it will be all Dick Tracy, Jetson’s and George Orwell’s worst nightmare. If you asked me if I would have a 4G smartphone and a Mac Lappy 1000 times the power of the world’s largest supercomputer in 1982 in my bag, I would say “Yes I hope so”.
    As technology evolves it would seem society devolves. The greatest gains of technology brings the worst losses to social structure. Give a dumb person a computer they become more stupid. Give an incapacitated person a computer they become empowered. A close friend that I have mentored has cerebral palsy, he is highly intelligent with a razor whit. We talk online all the time and when we go out or I go to his place, I forget he has trouble talking. I get incensed when people treat him like an idiot. He now has the tools he needs.

    I spend hours behind a computer screen but have trained myself to make sure I live in the real world. This enriches my life as no online experience will ever replace seeing a great musician, standing in front of a Bret Whitely, engaging with my diverse network of friends or performing to punters.
    The trouble with people on the net now is they have nothing to say. Back in the day when you all weren’t here, we exchanged freely and were like minded. It was our secret. Now they have redeveloped our sandpit we have all retired to places that you can’t find. When students facebook each other in the same classroom instead of passing notes, society is broken.

    Don’t phone a friend, go and see them.

  16. …unless you have a webcam and microphone and put it on YouTube, then they can hear and see you scream.

    On the other hand on the Net… no one can taste your icecream.

  17. Our lounge is devoid of a TV so when we adjurn to it, it is to verbally communicate. Also it is where I hide to read when the Grandkids are rampant. It is amazing how many of the family forget it is there. My mancave sort of.

  18. Remember the family dinner table.

    I can’t remember any family and friends places I’ve had dinner at in recent years where the whole family sits around the dinner table having a conversation with the TV(s) turned off. Almost without exception the kids had dinner whilst watching one TV and the rest of us sat in the lounge watching another.

    I grew up with the dinner table being sacrosanct. Everything else was turned off whilst we sat had dinner and talked about our day at school, dad’s day at work and mum about the latest things happening in the family here in Australia and overseas.

  19. I wasn’t allowed to talk at the dinner table. 😦

    My parents prescribed to the old fashioned meme that children were to be seen but not heard.

    I hope that parents these days have thrown that one out the window.

  20. In a previous life I used to regularly visit a couple my then wife and I were very close to.

    You’d roll up, they’d put some music on – with the TV on of course, they could cope without the TV on – and they’d expect to have a conversation.

    Talking to them was a nightmare. You’d suffer the indignity of while talking to them they’d keep glancing towards the TV to see what was happening. They’d do it to everybody.

    So it wasn’t me. 🙂

  21. About 30 years ago I worked with a bloke who was building a new home. My then wife asked me one day how John’s house was coming along. I replied that I had no idea.

    Then she said the obvious: “Why don’t you ask him? He might appreciate it”.

    Lesson learned.

  22. Eons ago, a group of us used to have fish and chips nights. The idea was that everyone would gather in one person’s house (destination rotated) and the menu would be takeaway fish and chips – that way there was no cooking and no cleaning up but plenty of time for talking..and for getting sloshed. 😀

  23. Just had a pre birthday lunch with my wife, son, father and sister at a local chinese.

    So often we do these things at someone’s house. All the prep and cleaning up seems to take the edge off the event.

    So I can see where you’re coming from, Min.

    I enjoyed today far more than the other occasions. Plus, I didn’t have to do anything or pay for anything 😀 )

    BUT I didn’t get sloshed….aw just a little….

  24. Min, tomorrow I’ll still be ?. But the next day the calendar ticks over and I’ll be ?.

    Fortunately I still have a mental age of 25 and, unfortunately, a body that can’t really handle it.

    Still, I remain incredibly 😀 handsome.

  25. I must admit my good looks pale in comparison the Roswells…and ok probably LOVOs as well.. (although he is a cellar dweller so I could be wrong)…

    Ya happy now

  26. I’m anti-social. I really don’t like people all that much. Even after long periods without seeing or talking to anyone, I rarely welcome having to talk to anyone.
    My husband, on the other hand, hates his own company and has to tear off looking for company.

  27. Ah… he’s emerged from the cafe’s bowels leaving behind rows of empty racks, stelvin tops littered around LOVO’s loins…shattered glass..corks bobbing in the dregs…Miglo face down trying to clean up…

    How you doin’ Bacchus? 😀

  28. I think it’s nice that you enjoy you’re own company, Jane. You must be as stable as me. There aren’t many of us left here. 😦

  29. Jane “Did I mention the last word in eruditeness?” ….yes you have/did and I do believe its BWWWHHAAAAA 😀 …. sorry not try’n to rude 😀

  30. littered around LOVO’s loins” 😯

    What, may I ask, is LOVO doing with bottle tops scattered about his loins? On second thoughts, perhaps I don’t wish to hear the answer to that question…

    handyrab – I’m doin’ good, thanks for askin’ 🙂

    jane – I’m not so much anti-social as anti-talking. While I am more than comfortable with my own company, when in company, I’d rather listen than talk. I’d imagine this would be unusual for those who frequent the blogosphere – most have something they want everyone else to know about – even if no-one else wants to hear it (like certain contributors here and elsewhere)

  31. Not much happening around my loins 😦 even if no-one else wants to hear it 😀 .. 😦
    ….. is that a violin I can hear…….. nope.. just my groin groaning…. 🙂

  32. shanana is having his version of sheridans radio screech as the new polls sink in


    In the past few weeks, Gillard has demonstrated a ruthless political brutality that has undermined all claims to be driven by policy and the national interest, and disclosed an intent to win at all costs.

    Positions on the moral high ground have been abandoned, scientifically sacrosanct decisions have been dumped, With very good reason it now appears
    sovereign risk has been introduced at every level of investment, WTF! world leading economy, and he still rabbits on about ;sovereign risk’. pulease.
    despised Howard-era policies clutched to Labor’s bosom, yeah, I’ll give him that one 😦

    the grubbiest gossip has been encouraged and ministers have been left to argue black is white as Labor “issues” are paraded as totems without substantial backing or real hope of implementation. ROFL. after what his rag has been up to for the last two and a half years, it takes some pretty brass balls to claim that now. Or are they so far gone down the rabbit hole that they are oblivious to all that?

    Yet, it has worked for Labor and Gillard., Yea, I’ll give him that one too 🙂

    A week is a long time in politics. I get the feeling the year might be a lot longer than that for his boy.

    He finishes with this

    Rudd and Abbott are left to scratch their heads and wonder at being victims of a campaign prepared to do whatever it takes.

    This, after the rabid campaign waged by tabot and the oo in order to force an ELECTION NOW!. Thompson, Slipper, convoy of no consequence, articles pulled from their pages because they defame the PM, creating a lie about a lie, ‘Bob Browns Bitch’, sagging earlobes, ‘illegitimate Government’. Yet Gillard is the one that will do ‘whatever it takes’? 😯

  33. Can’t do Campbell and his dysfunctional LNP team are a great public relation machine for the federal labor party chances on winning the next elections.

  34. I love this thread..it would appear that my smart phone isn’t that smart….judgeing by where it pasted my text…. I have been dating a girl for about 8 months now. I have been single for 10 or so years and she for around 3. It’ s the first time in years I have dated someone my own age (she is 50 and I’m 51). We are both academic but she is way smarter, a high achieveing mathamation. The absolute joy of conversation with someone who gets you and your social references is wonderful. When we met we just clicked and as we are both a wealth of useless information we never shut up untill we get online.

  35. Bacchus, it’s impossible to speak while sipping on a wine.

    Sipping on a wine – that’s a novel concept. I must try it some time 😆

  36. No Bacchus sipping wine doesn’t mean you use a straw. It means you use a wine glass instead of a bucket or straight from the flagon/cask.

  37. Janet, it does sort of put a lie to the supposition that the social media does not enhance communication/socialising.

    On thinking about it, society due to a number of factors has become more isolationist – families/friends far more mobile than they were a couple of decades ago – increased work pressures especially for women with younger children.

    Therefore how have quite a number of us used modern technology? To meet new friends and to keep in contact with old ones…

  38. Miglo now why would I destroy a perfectly good working relationship by getting married. Ive been twice and she once so were happy with monogamous sinful lust. Besides its perfect, four days at her place down the gong and I live in Sydney so best of both. Min…yes its very cool to find someone after so long. Gimme big brains over big tits any day. I watch the insiders she plays internet scrabble with her NASA maths propeller head mates. Funny thing I am a moderator on a board for audio geeks and had talked online and gave tech support
    And bantered to a friend for some five years. I moved back to Sydney and he told me he had a residentcy at a pub and i should drop in. I did one Sunday. I watched him and though here we go, walked up, said……….(his board handle) I presume..he shook my hand handed me a set list, strapped a guitar on me and their I was playing in his band. We been great in the flesh mates ever since and it turned out we had lots of common friends….ah networking. It’s a small digital world.

  39. Ricky, don’t be so sure of yourself. One day when you least expect it you’ll be hit with the “why don’t you want to marry me?” sledgehammer. :mrgreen:

  40. Miglo said..Ricky, don’t be so sure of yourself. One day when you least expect it you’ll be hit with the “why don’t you want to marry me?” sledgehammer. ….

    Maybe; but she outstrips my assets 10 fold so I will just be content looking like an aged toyboy in the passenger seat of her sports car. 🙂

  41. You think you know someone.

    When I was in the Navy I happily lived with a woman (nurse) for near on seven years with nary a inkling of marriage for the entire time.

    Then the little hints started happening, like when shopping stopping to pause at windows or pictures with wedding gowns and lots of other things like that.

    So I finally took the hint and asked her to marry me, to which she said yes and then out of the blue, “How soon are you going to quite the Navy?”

    I was a career man and at that stage had done around 11 years so had no intention of quitting for at least another nine. So I said never.

    That ended our relationship, right there and then.

    You think you know someone and it turns out you haven’t a clue.

    So what would have been the outcome if she had asked that question after we were married?

  42. Hey Möbius Ecko that sucks but better to find out pre divorce…My first wife was having an affair, I thought I knew her too, trust me mate if she really loved you she would never have expected you to leave the Navy. The answer is the result would be the same or you would have left and been miserable.

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