Thoughts and such like.....
I'm late posting again this week, however it's a directly related to the topic of my blog. On my street, each summer we have a street party, where new and old neighbours meet for dinner, bringing their plate, meat/fish/beans and beverage of choice, a dish to share and a blanket or chair to sit on. Monday night was the night, not a mobile device in sight for over three hours.
When babies learn to communicate, they learn through watching and listening to their parents, siblings, other children and the World around them. They learn to communicate through the spoken word, much later they learn to read and write, but first they learn to talk. They understand both positive and negative tone, and react to both.
I find how people communicate, or how they don't, quite fascinating. As we have all seen the spoken word can be a powerful tool whether speaking of love or hate. How we phrase, what we say can be interpreted in many ways, just think back to when you said something to a friend or colleague, maybe you weren't as clear as you meant to be, and they received a totally different message than the one you were trying to convey. What chaos ensued?
I've often said to people 'listen to what you say, think about who you are speaking to, and think of what they might be hearing', particularly if your message is an important one, as this can help to ensure others have received the message you were trying to convey. Think also about how you relay messages, how you sit or stand, what your facial expression says. We all interpret things differently, based on our history, the messages we've received through our lifetime and our experience with the person we are interacting with. So for example if someone has often received negative feedback and you call them to say you have some feedback to give - their immediate response will be negative, they will expect the worst. How can you ensure that what you say not only gets heard, but also that your message gets understood? For me this is one of the reasons I prefer to meet people face to face, and if that is not possible using video platforms that allow me to watch their facial expressions and body language - I'm definitely a people watcher, as I've noted before, I love to sit and watch people often making up stories about them from what I observe.
Everyone has their own communication style, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia notes that we communicate both verbally and nonverbally, and our styles are often shaped by the styles of our family of origin, cultural values and norms, as well as our world views and our life experiences. As more and more people are relying on technology for interactions, many studies show that these devices have had a detrimental effect on face to face conversation. One small study at Elon University, North Carolina found that although students believed that technology has a 'negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication', 62% of students found it difficult to disengage from their devices when with others. Another study from MUI, Maynooth, Ireland showed that the use of digital devices in homes with children has 'led to a bedroom culture and a digital divide in a negative way. Instead of a digital divide being perceived as a way to bring different generations together, it increases social isolation between individuals in the household.'
When my kids were growing up, we didn't have TV, and digital devices were still in their infancy, however as they grew and were able to purchase their own devices, we developed a couple of rules that are still maintained today when they visit:
It is the way we use technology that worries and irritates me. It's addictive, and can be isolating, in a world where so many people feel alone and unsure about themselves and their abilities. It provides a space for presenting an unrealistic view of life, showing only one facet of an ordinary life, nothing messy or untidy. In a 1991 film, Truly, Madly, Deeply there's a scene at the beginning where the young women (Juliet Stevenson) is mourning the death of her boyfriend (Alan Rickman). She's beside herself with grief, and it's a truly wonderful scene, that depicts what crying often looks like, not the aesthetically artistic tears slowly rolling down cheeks, but the black running mascara, the red snotty nose, messy face with dirty tissues everywhere, and for me that's how we should show lives on social media - life in glorious imperfection! The fact is no-one has a perfect life, and each of those individuals whose instagram or twitter feeds that we follow has someone to curate their feed, to ensure that a facade is maintained - don't believe it, life's never that perfect!
So take a moment, or two, to look up from your screen, look at those people in your life, really look at them, and talk - face to face. Instigate some rules around devices, whether it's once a day or once a week. Try chatting with a neighbour, or when out put your phone on silence, better yet turn it off. You'll eventually find that you're happier for it. Remember you only have one life to live, and to live it in glorious technicolour you will need to lift your eyes up and gaze on both your surroundings and those you are with. Live it outside the imaginary world of others, spend less time documenting what a great life you have, and more time enjoying that life! Start with an hour, and grow it to a day without social media. Is it possible? Oh yes!
Maeve O'Byrne's Blog