Saturday, August 13, 2016

Communication Begins by Listening

Internet access and the value of the smartphone is a great blessing and beyond dispute but as with all technological advances, even with the good, there are stumbling blocks and negative results needing the discernment of the user.

In the Kyeongyang Magazine, three articles written by a psychologist, priest and a specialist in computer science, consider the effect on communication of the smartphone. It does facilitate communication but at the same time can be an obstacle to communication at a deeper level."Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks." (Pope Francis' Communication Sunday Message)

Smartphone's benefits as a tool of communication are many. What may be difficult in face to face conversation is easy with the smartphone. In the work place and in social activities it becomes invaluable. The handicapped feel strengthened by its use. However, communication is not only about convenience in conveying information. We want to express our feelings and our life and to feel with others. This is not  easily done with the smartphone.

We can downplay the part of voice, facial expressions, and gestures in communication. One article mentions the work of two scholars who have studied the results of our bodily movements on communication. When we agree with another it is not a simply saying: "I agree"  but a nodding of the head, sounds emitted by the mouth: 'ah', 'yeah', 'indeed', with these brief expressions we become fellow travelers.  With the smartphone this is missing, we are not  conveying our live emotions and are left with sterile words.

Often we can be under the illusion that we are conveying our deep feelings; gratitude, sorrow, repentance with the smartphone but we  lack sincerity. A more serious problem is that we can lose touch with our feelings and think that what is happening in the digital is real communication of ourselves which can be a deception. We are faced with the paradox: the more we communicate the less we succeed in communicating.The easier it becomes the less we communicate.

The digital world allows us to communicate with the like-minded and form homogeneous groupings but at the same time becoming isolated from others. We imagine what is at a distance as present and ignore those nearest to us.  In the home, we see family members with their smartphones and less human contact. The abbreviated  kind of communication militates against the heart to heart communication that humans need, and forgotten is the importance of listening.

Real communication wants the gap between the old and young to decrease. Communication wants a sense of stability and solidarity to exist between ourselves and others.  Even though we disagree in the way we see reality, we are ready to listen, working to breach the gap. Communication begins by listening.