May 22, 2016

Communication making us less empathic

- Why don’t you ask Google?

I am asking Trouble 2 for a little bit of computer support, it doesn’t happen that often. And that’s his response.

- I’ve googled it and it seems like I will be okay in a few days, I won’t call the doctor.

That’s Josephine. Her horse has happened to step on her foot. It’s swollen, busied, looks really ugly, she can’t walk on it and it hurts like hell. But Google claims she is okay.

I am realizing the reflex for people under 35 is to ask Google for help instead of a human being. Google is their best friend. The one to turn to and trust. I find that interesting.

Why don’t you ask Google, my son asks me. Of course he is a bit annoyed about his mother disturbing him. But the thing is, my reflex is to ask a person. A human being. Someone in flesh and blood. Someone you can actually talk to. And with. Because, what happens when you are interacting with someone real?

Well, a lot of things. A real person, ARP, listens not only to my one question but to the whole perspective. ARP asks you questions back, to understand the situation. ARP asks you about things you didn’t think about or consider yourself.

ARP also says hello. And you say hello back. You might chit chat a bit, a lot if you are in the U.S. And you say thank you, and ARP says you are welcome and take care now. And you say goodbye and wish each other a nice weekend if it’s a Friday. It’s called human interaction. I kind of like that. It does you good. It might even make your day.

But I’m a people person. I like people. Not everybody does. Some like hotels where you check in with a machine and there is no staff around. That’s not my cup of tea.

There is research now, pointing out that our contemporary communication habits are changing our empathic skills. Communicating in brief messages on a screen changes us. Not hearing ARP voice when communicating changes us. Not seeing ARP while communicating changes us. It makes us less empathic. I find that scary.

I am also pretty sure it decreases our conversation skills. When you cut right into a subject you miss out on the fillers that makes us connect to each other. How are you? What’s going on? Oh, I didn’t know you’ve moved! And you mother is sick, I’m so sorry.

We are probably communicating more than ever in history, but if the quality of  communication is poor, what does that do to us? And if it makes us less empathic? Well, that’s something to think about.

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