FAITH column November 26, 2017

Earlier this year, a young woman was admitted to a mental hospital suffering depression as a social media addict, discovering in those days the psychologically therapeutic ‘touch’ of conversing with real people instead of the impersonal ‘touch’ of an inanimate machine for a twitterverse.

Indeed American performer Billy Joel postulated his proposal about authentic conversation when he wrote: “I don’t want clever conversation, I don’t want to work that hard, I just want someone I can talk to…”

Sadly perhaps, communication today is consistently reduced to push-button programs whereby we respond robotically to mechanised messages that ignore our humanity; cold, distant and unfeeling.

Devoid of emotional warmth, 21st century communication “wonder tools” can inadvertently engender a sense of loneliness and isolation bedevilling our psyche. Perhaps social wellbeing demands appreciating that talking with others, rather than just to them, can reward us with positive feelings of intimacy, inclusion and care.

Experiencing sincerity from others towards us face-to-face rather than indulging in a tapestry of technological talk can liberate our senses to excite the real joy of communication.

The art of conversation, oft celebrated as a creative endeavour that emanates only from the naturally gifted, can be an acquired skill developed to enrich our quality of life. This implies genuine engagement with others that may at times focus on issues not intrinsically earth-shattering, but nonetheless manifest as mutual connection on common ground.

It is not just wanting someone to talk to as Billy Joel sings that’s significant, but recognising that communicating openly and honestly with others is an innate human need, transcending the mantra of material marketing that many seek as succour for their emptiness.

Feeling respected and reciprocated rapport with another in a personal context together with a latte, meal or a vino can be a more meaningful investment than the latest smartphone, laptop or digital device.

Undoubtedly, it can be difficult to meet others on our spiritual and intellectual wavelength and at the same time, we need to consider that convivial conversation is not about small talk for superficial sociability, however pertinently polite in some public contexts.
Talking with self to heighten understanding and enhance our perspective can likewise be more enlightening and enjoyable than participating in conversations that are only disingenuous, especially on mute screens.

Most people are refreshingly interesting if you expend the effort to really know them as ordinary human beings rather than what they represent in image, status and prestige.

As James 3:13 states: “Let him show out of a good conversation…his good life.”