Is the Art of Conversation Dying?

On our return from our last break away we had no messages on our answerphone. It was a strange and new occurrence and left me a little bemused. Then over the weekend I read an article entitled ‘Please don’t phone me’. The person was saying that they much preferred emails as telephone calls were intrusive, and it suddenly dawned on me why we didn’t have any messages. Apart from family who knew we were away most people email now rather than ring.

I found it quite disconcerting and sad. Normally when I return from a break I catch up on local news and individual events as I return calls. It’s called conversation and helps to keep me in the loop of what is happening in people’s lives as well as in our little town. It’s good to hear about the escapades of the new puppy or the trials of the new job as well as regale your own adventures away from home. No calls left me feeling a little lonely and isolated. The emails I had dealt with on holiday just talked about the task in hand.

I had a conversation along similar lines with a neighbour a few weeks ago. He is only in his thirties but was made aware of the conversation problem when he spoke to a younger colleague a few days earlier. The youngster in questions was having difficulty discussing a work issue with my neighbour who was left still very much in the dark having tried every which way to elicit the information he needed. A little while later he received an email from the younger colleague answering everything in clear detail. The youngster couldn’t cope with a face to face encounter but emails were fine.

Statistics are now saying that young people feel more isolated and lonely than previous generations even though they are continually in contact with people on their phones. I think that the small talk and eye to eye contact involved in conversation serve far more than just an information exchange. They make us feel connected to others on a deeper level.