The Slow Extinction of Face to Face Communication

The Slow Extinction of Face to Face Communication

Benjamin J. Dunston

Purchased from:  New Dawn, September-October 2017

I never realised the healing power of words. Often underestimated, words have the ability to transform our perception of ourselves and reality, for good and bad. Words can be thrown around without any real meaning or intention behind them; no substance, no clarity and no originality, just sound vibrations used to fill the void. This is simply a waste of time, in my opinion. Why say anything if you’ve got nothing to say? In this day and age, word jargon is everywhere. It’s  infiltrated today’s youth and it’s supremely obvious if you go out in public and quietly listen to conversations held between groups of young people: “Oi Cu*t,” “yeah bro,” “Omg he’s so hot,” and so forth. I would say 80 to 90% of conversations between young people are irrational, meaningless and volatile.

Instead of referring to one another by name, instead they call each other “bro” or “man,” or even worse “c*nt”(this is especially Australian). The value of the English dictionary has been severely degraded. Of course I’m not saying every young person in today’s society speaks in this manner  (there are perceptive, intelligent and articulate people out there). I just feel it’s actually being encouraged (through subliminal messaging in the media) to dumb down one’s ability to communicate by using simple, non descriptive and crude words. I think this has been encouraged through modern day film, TV shows and music, to provoke dislike, distrust, fear and indifference to one another. Slowly but surely expunging the core virtues of empathy, compassion and love for one another.

I’ll use an example of the difference in communication between people now and say, 50 years ago. Instead of calling a friend simply by their name, “Hey George, how are you?” it’s devolved into a disrespectful and simplistic greeting of, “Hey man, what’s up?” “What’s up?” The sky? Honestly, words are being thrown around with no real meaning behind them, no understanding of what the actual word means. We’re heading in a scary direction of being so out of touch with the English language we’ll soon have to rely on the Internet and social media to communicate with one another; that’s the reality of the situation.

Instead of sitting in an office at work conversing with one another, asking what you got up to the previous night or questions about a person’s health or wellbeing, people would rather sit in front  of a laptop or phone or ‘tablet’ (heaven forbid) and ‘talk’ to each other through instant messaging – it’s way more fun that way, isn’t it?! I think not.

What happened to simply looking at people in the eye with sincerity and actually wanting to know how someone is, what they’re doing this weekend or what their passions or hobbies are? Instead of thinking we know everything there is to know about ourselves and the world around us, and therefore relying on trivial and materialistic forms of communication (social media), why can’t we get to know one another through real communication?        The answer to this question: it’s just too hard. What’s easier: send a person an instant message on Facebook (which I’m strongly against) or look someone in the eye, give them your attention, and try to get to know them? Most people would say communicating via Facebook is far easier and less stressful, which brings me to the next point of this article.

Stress. What is it? Is it healthy? Is it normal? How much is too much? Is it inherent or brought on by circumstances? The answer to these questions can’t be simply answered for everyone is affected by stress in different ways and on different levels. I suffer from stress related issues that I would call  imperfections, including irritability, anxiousness, a short temper and changes in mood. Stress is a proven killer – it’s seriously dangerous for your health – mental and physical. It can increase the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and a severe breakdown of the immune system resulting in an increased chance of developing deadly diseases. Stress is a slow decay and breakdown of the human body and mind, quite like the breakdown of a mango tree if it isn’t tendered to.

Coming back to the main point of this article, social media is supposed to provide a means of communication in which stress is reduced as it skips the whole process of having to physically speak to someone in person, where you are meant to show sincerity and genuine interest in that person. Many people believe social media creates less social anxiety and stress because it’s all online, in a virtual world in which you don’t have to deal with interpreting body language, spoken words and the meaning behind them, and also look someone in the eye (a hard task for many these days). I honestly understand why people would think this is less stressful. I’ve had Facebook on and off since year 9, it’s an easy and efficient way of getting the message across without having to really think. This is why it was created – to skip the part in which you meet, talk and build a connection with someone, instead opting for simply getting the message across. It works, I’m not going to dispute that.

But, the message isn’t always clear and that’s where clarity disappears. The problem with just getting the message across is that despite it being quick and efficient, it’s an artificial, biased and untrustworthy sense of communication. Who knows what that person who just instant messaged you is thinking? She could be saying one thing to you over Facebook but could be completely disguising her true intention in her mind. This is a recipe for confusion, which is a recipe for anxiety, and then stress, followed possibly by anger. A chain reaction. By creating a virtual form of communication, one misses out on the fundamental nature of spoken word. One also misses out on learning to convey their true feelings, interpretation of body language, and the building of meaningful and spiritual connections with other human beings.

Facebook is supposedly a stress free form of communication but when you think about it, it actually creates more stress in regard to social interaction. Because people nowadays rely so heavily on Facebook (not to mention Twitter and  Instagram) to communicate with one another, when it comes to real life communication people are more stressed as they have no clue how to build rapport with another human being! If I can use an analogy, you might change from washing your car the way you always have to suddenly learning a new way, in the name of efficiency. This new way may be more efficient (maybe even more fun) BUT it lacks the key ingredient – attention to detail. If you quickly wash your car, instead of carefully and methodically, you’ll miss out on developing your attention to detail, your ability to analyse and correct mistakes, and most importantly, it erodes the sense of pride and satisfaction you get from taking time to wash your car and have it spick and span!

Sure, social media is quick and efficient but it lacks that fundamental facet of communication – attention to detail. You simply can’t have a high level of attention to detail when instant messaging someone on Facebook or Twitter; you have no way of gauging that person’s true feelings and emotions as you’re sitting behind a technological block. It’s true that words can have a powerful impact on a person’s psyche but it’s words in which you can hear that makes all the difference, and of course, social media and technology in general falls short in this.

Whilst it’s true you can’t be friends with everyone (it’d be good if you could), it is true that you can at least attempt to get along with everyone. After all, every human is relatively the same, the structure of our DNA differs little. Our brains and physical bodies are made of the same material, what else do we need in common to get along? Just because you have 500 friends on Facebook does not make you more social than the person who only has 100 friends, or better yet, doesn’t even have Facebook. It’s all an illusion. Social media and technology in general creates the idea that  one may be social because he/she has hundreds of friends on Facebook, when in fact that person may never see any of these friends in real life. Isn’t that sad (not to mention weird)?

What is a friend anyway? Is it someone you talk to on social media regularly? Is it someone you do activities with? Is it someone you follow on Instagram who happened to follow you back? Here is the English Dictionary’s definition of a friend: friend:  a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty. The key words here are loyalty and “known well.” The dangerous thing about social media is it represents a medium in which “loyalty” and “well known” are dissipated. How can you show loyalty to your close friends, the ones who truly know you inside and out, when you’re too busy trying to show loyalty to all of the other so called “friends” you have on Facebook?

I honestly wish I was born in my parent’s era when this form of technology didn’t exist and face to face communication was the standard. It sounds so much more fun and rewarding. Why has it become this way? Why is it that separation between people (especially young people) is becoming more and more prevalent? Rather than human beings slowly becoming closer, we’re instead  shifting further and further away from each other; soon we’ll have virtual friends instead of real friends. Facebook wasn’t created to draw people together or to make people care more about each other. It was created by a self  indulgent, arrogant, and lonely person who wanted so much to make millions he pushed his only friend away (if you know the story about Mark Zuckerberg and/or watched the movie The Social Network you’ll understand what I’m referring to here).

It’s an individual’s choice as to whether or not he or she wants to take part in this rapidly changing negative social society. It’s up to you to say no – I don’t need Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat or Twitter to stay connected, all I need is to stay naturally connected with the people who love and care about me. After six or so months off social media you’ll start to realise what you’ve been missing. You’ll realise you’ve missed appreciating the ocean, reading books, going outside and having adventures, and most of all, you’ve missed actually seeing and meeting people in real life.

The choice is yours – you can either partake in this social and cultural shift that’s slowly killing face to face communication and empathy, or you can choose to be the outlier, the one who is wise and sees through the illusion, the one who chooses not to partake for the very simple reason of saving the human race.



BEN DUNSTAN is an up and coming writer. He has a strong interest in spirituality, human consciousness, philosophy, psychology, sociology and alternative news. Whilst he does not hold a formal degree in a particular field, Ben prefers to do his own independent research in his own time, researching and learning about topics of particular interest to him. Ben is a fan of David Icke and Richard Smoley. Becoming a great writer and philosophiser is one of Ben’s goals.

From: New Dawn, September-October 2017