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We need less communication

We are social animals and we have an innate desire to form bonds and relationships with others.


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Tealfeed Guest Blog

3 years ago | 6 min read

We are social animals and we have an innate desire to form bonds and relationships with others.

This desire kept our ancestors alive and enabled them to grow strong into tribes and communities back in the early days of homo sapiens. It is hard to know whether the need to bond with others is the result or the cause of the rise of human civilisation as we know it, but it is an integral part of that development.

A lot has changed since then, but that desire to form bonds and relationships has remained throughout the history of time and technology has changed the way we communicate with each other radically since then.

We went from only being able to meet face to face, to letters, landline and mobile, to instant messaging, email and social media, to now being able to broadcast whatever we want with a few taps of our fingers. There is no doubt that the quantity of communication has increased over time.

But did these new ways of communication really help us to achieve our goal of forming bonds and relationships with others?

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Research has shown that we feel more lonely compared to previous generations. And the irony of the situation is that we spend so much time being ‘connected’ with others yet we still feel alone.

It seems like the convenience of communication has devalued the meaning of it. By being so easily accessible, we’ve opted for quantity over quality and our relationships with others suffer and ultimately we suffer together.

I suspect there are several reasons worth exploring and understanding if we want to improve the situation.

Quality Over Quantity

Whether it is a message, or an email, or a tweet, we have many ways to reach others nowadays. However, we stop putting effort into how we communicate because it costs nothing and there is no incentive to make sure that you are communicating effectively.

Some might be too young to remember the days when we have character limits on text messages and transfer limits on dial-up internet, but those were the days when we are much more intentional with how we communicated with others. While I am not advocating that we should go back to the past, we can certainly learn a little bit from it.

Communication is about quality, not quantity, and since deep and meaningful conversations are what facilitates relationships between people. It doesn’t matter if you are not connected to the entire world because you are connected with the important people in your life. It is impossible to connect deeply with too many people and any attempt to do so will just take your energy and focus away from the people who matter.

Fear of not being included

A side effect of being constantly connected and exposed to everyone’s life is that we have a lot more perceived opportunities for things that we can do. A never-ending list of Facebook events, meet-ups and parties should theoretically translate to a fun-filled life where we can always find something that we like.

But in reality, it trained us to be non-committal because we think there is always something better around the corner. The seemingly improved social life ends up being one that is full of anxiety and regrets because we always feel like we are missing out on something.

Unable to be alone

One of the main motivations for people to be constantly connected is that we fear to be alone. Research has shown that people would rather administer an electric shock to themselves rather than being alone with their thoughts.

This inevitably contributes to the reliance on constant shallow communication to fill in all of our time. Whether it is sending text messages to a group of friends, or posting something on social media hoping others would “like” it, the goal is the same. We seek validation from others and that dopamine hit we get from that has become a way for us to deal with loneliness.

This is not a reasonable solution as we are increasing our reliance on external validation rather than learning how to be self-reliant.

An audited life

Communication used to be an intimate thing between a small group of people but that has also changed over the years. From having an intimate face to face conversation to broadcasting our life for the world to see.

We learnt to audit our life before we share with others and the more we share only one side of our life, the more we are tipping the balance and repressing the side that we don’t want to share with people. It’s perfectly normal to not want to share everything with others, but we still need those negatives and the failures to grow as a person.

We used to do that by having private conversations with people we trust but that has become less and less common. We can’t live a full life if we are always trying to audit ourselves for the world to see.

Single-sided communication

Relationships are two-way streets and while technologies enable us to scale our communications and reach people that we might not have the opportunities to meet before, it is only solving one side of the problem. We can send information out to the world much quicker but we are still limited by how much information we can receive.

To make it even harder for us, we now have magnitude more information that others are pushing to us. This created an unhealthy imbalance as we focused on what we say than listen to what is important. We became more self-focused which in turn diminished our ability to connect and bond with others.

Relationships are built on mutual understanding and when both parties just want to be heard and no one is doing the listening, our relationships suffer.

The pursuit of real communication

There is no doubt that technology enables communication in a way that we have never experienced before and there are a lot of positives that come out of it.

The world seems smaller and more reachable when you can communicate with others across the world easily. However, since we only have a limited amount of time in a day, the increase in communication forces us to trade quality with quantity if we want to maintain more relationships at the same time.

Technology has removed the cap on the number of relationships we can have with others, but we have tipped the scale too far to the other side. Fortunately, there is a solution for us to combat this situation.

We need to be more intentional with our communication. From who we are trying to build a relationship with to how we are communicating, we need to be more selective about how we invest our limited time and resources to building the relationships that are meaningful and important to us.

On the flip side, we need to find ways to block and remove communication that is not helpful because any time and energy we spend on those are resources taken away from the meaningful ones. Technology has made it super easy for us to communicate, but it has made regulating how we communicate so much harder.

This is a simple but difficult solution but it is our responsibility to make sure we are pursuing valuable relationships through meaningful communication.

Perhaps it is hypocritical to talk about deep and meaningful communication using such a one-sided medium but I do hope that this will help you think differently about your communication in the future and maybe even reconsider how you should communicate with others. After all, communication is only as valuable as the bond and relationship it helps facilitate.

This article was originally published by Jonathan choi on medium.

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