Communication is vital for almost all living beings. In this context I am including plants as well. After all plants communicate with the environment, although much more differently. Animals, especially mammals communicate with each other in much complex way. The concept of society, intra-group hierarchy and inter-group dynamics is much more visible in large mammals, especially primates, than others. Humans communicate with each other and we believe ourselves to be the only species which employs mechanisms that no other species do. Strangely, we still find it natural to tag other species as weird when we find some kind of sound based communication among them e.g. dolphins. Language with all its complexity made it possible for humans to establish larger and larger networks over time. This helped humans to overpower others by having better coordination than the rest. It is such a special capability that we are proud of our language(s) while at the same time we don’t seem to notice and appreciate it on daily basis.
Talking is considered so important that it is considered to be the key to build, sustain and repair damaged relations. It can be any type of relation; family, professional or even political relations. Similarly, relations can be between individuals, groups, communities, religions, companies or countries. There are so many therapies based on the notion of talking. Apparently talking itself seems so important than in some therapies you do not even need a person to talk to. It is said that one can talk to a chair or a wall and still have the same feeling as talking to a person. From couples to religions to empires and to countries, all have been encouraged to initiate and engage in talks to improve the situation and build stronger relations.
Some believe that without language humans would not have managed to collaborate and thus survive in the wild. If this talking and communication is so important, then do we value it to the same extent. My personal opinion is that we do, but only when it comes to some kind of debate on importance of talks or build expensive therapies to charge to patients. On a daily basis, I do not think that we even stop for a moment to check how much value our talk contains. It seems the “so called fundamental pillar” of human rise has also got the “taken for granted” treatment. Maybe I can use food as an analogy. The groups, which has scarcity they know the value of food in their life. They take care of what and how much food they consume. Every meal and every bite is important. On the other hand, at places where food is abundant, it is taken for granted. People don’t care what they eat and are ready to just dump any kind of junk into their bellies. This can be from processed food to sugar based food or alcohol or altered/contaminated food. On the other side they won’t think for a moment before throwing away good food in the dustbin. Pretty much the same way, the ease with which we can speak and the amount of time that we have to spend has “degraded” the talk. We just dump out anything and everything from our lips without pausing a moment to check its value.
It seems that with time “talking” took over communicating. The studies or therapies showing results with use of chairs and walls seems to make this point strong. It seems people want to just talk or maybe just to speak. I prefer the word talk as the usual conversation has another party involved thus creating the scene of talking rather than just speaking; let’s exclude one side speeches by various people for the moment. One does not need to be an expert to notice that. If you are in a group of people appear to having a conversation, then just observe. The whole conversation would appear to be the people waiting to have a chance to start talking themselves. A lot many times the next person may start something unrelated or would appear to have missed what was said earlier. Sometimes, the need to talk by oneself gets so strong that they would start a new topic within the subgroups. After all, with smaller groups the time-to-wait is smaller on average.
Is it so true? what about animal life?
One thing about human talk is that usually we do not want to talk to understand a topic. We just want to talk about topics. Or many times we do not even do that, rather we want to talk about stories about a topic. People e.g. love to talk about topics of love, poverty, economics, capitalism, finances, science and so on. But they only want to talk about it and not to learn or do anything about it. Economics, politics, capitalism and love would probably be at the top in rankings. The other thing I mentioned about talking about a story on a topic. This is a layered distance from the original topic and can have multiple layers. Distance from the main topic is directly proportional to the amount of talk about that topic. More the distance from the original topic, more the talk. Let me take movies as an example. Someone makes a movie about a topic; let’s say for the reason to bring awareness. People in general however would be talking about the movie and not the main topic. The talk then generally drifts to discuss lives of the actors involved in those movies. People will talk about making of the movie, about the reviews of the movie, critics comments about movie and so on. Some like to discuss about twitter or facebook conversation happening about the movie and actors. If you ask people, if they have watched the movie, many would say “No”. And remember, we have not even touched the original topic covered in the movie! It is not surprising when study shows that most of the social network sharing happens without reading the article. Same is the fate of religion, spiritualism, yoga, exercise and so on. It is much easier to talk about exercising and finding excuses not to exercise rather than putting effort to do it. It is much easier to wear a Nike shirt with label, “Just Do It!” rather than actually doing it.
This is also one form of communication
Another thing about human communication is the method or technique of communication. We want to talk, but we will only accept the method, topic, tone, style of talk, which is comfortable to us. E.g. a person wants to have an open communication, but would not like you to contradict his/her views. Someone else may tell you that they do not like others making statements, but do not like answering exploratory questions as well. People would say they want you to tell the truth, but would stop talking the moment you say it. People would like to talk about a topic, but only from their point of view. The last one is easy to understand, if you follow any of the groups; political party, a particular player fan group, a sports club, a certain meditation camp or style, a certain religion, medical systems, or other specialized groups e.g. feminists or any kind of anti-xx group. Religion or spiritualist group makes it easy to understand as they would like to spread love and oneness, but only using “their” method, rest all is evil.
There is a theory which proposes that elaborate communication and thus language evolved to support and develop gossip. If that is true, then I think where we are on the communication today seems to have direct linkage to that evolutionary base. The only made-up thing seems to be the special importance to the value of communication. You can check in your own social circle, how many words are used for pure gossip and how many are used for any meaningful communication. We also seems to have some kind of natural bias around meaningless communication. No wonder, people spend more time on watching “funny cat videos” than trying to learn something, develop something or have a real conversation with a friend, partner, family member or even with themselves. Interesting thing is that usually people keep an opinion about others as to how they just blabber most of the time without any meaning into it. Most of the time this judgement directs outwards than inwards.
I am not sure which way the communication will evolve. Will it keep evolving true to its origins of gossip or will it change its direction someday. What and how much were people talking 1,000 or 5,000 years ago when most of the time might have been spent on day’s struggle with short life span on average. The style of communication is changing as well. Young generation can be seen sitting together having a drink without saying a word to each other. The only time when one can hear few words is when they have to share something that they just found on their phones. Most of the time that sharing also happens through the phone. Person to person communication seems to be becoming a challenge to solve. Group level light and distant topics are popular among people than individual talk which needs an emotional involvement. One of the ways one can notice it is by observing interactions between people and their pets. There was a time when pets had a function to serve. Those functions were usually externally oriented e.g. safety, alarm, carrying load, travel etc. Today those functions are not required from pets. However, that did not render pets useless. Thanks to changing times, pets found new functions. Now pets are needed more for personal requirements. Pets are now a companion to go out for a walk with, to have someone to talk to, to have someone to care for and feel cared about. You can see people carrying pets in their hands than their kids. People spend a lot of time, money and effort on taking care of their pets. You can find people talking about their pets more than other people in their lives. People upload more photos with their pets than people. As I mentioned above some pets are even used in therapies.
Advancement of technology has made it possible to have computers to act as companions as well. This at the moment is still in its infancy, but is improving rapidly. From chatbots to, voice bots to robopets to humanoid robots. The developments are happening fast. It is already the case for a lot of people that they would prefer to speak out their mind on some random internet site or group rather than to a person. Some researches have shown that given an option people feel more comfortable sharing their secrets with robots/computers rather than humans. If nothing else, I believe this will keep atleast a part of computers to become less human-like.
It is bewildering to think that humans feel comfortable with less human-like species or robots to have a deep and personal communication. Do other species do it as well ( in the wild)? What makes us feel so proud of our ability to communicate in much more complicated fashion then? Is this something we need to look deeper into or is this something we can smile at and move on. For some I believe, the later option comes easy. For others I don’t know. What do you think? Does smiling comes easy to you?
Keep Smiling Love
Mulla Nasrudin called on a psychiatrist and told him that he had problems and needed help. “I want to talk to you,” said the Mulla, “because my ethics have not been what they should be and my conscience is bothering me.” “I understand,” the psychiatrist said, “and you want me to help you build up a stronger will power, is that it?” “NO,” said Nasrudin, “THAT’S NOT IT. I WANT YOU TO TRY TO WEAKEN MY CONSCIENCE.”