Now everyone is connected, is this the death of conversation?

A professor at MIT who is also a psychologist, Sherry Turkle says that her students are almost able to keep eye contact with someone while texting to another person. In her opinion, such people are “alone together … a tribe of one”. Those who have 3,000 Facebook friends have no friends.

In his opinion piece, Simon Jenkins suggests that we have mistaken electronic connection for genuine conversation. “Talk is reduced to the muttered, heads-down expletives brilliantly satirised in the BBC’s Twenty Twelve,” he says, “which psychologists have identified … as ‘fear of conversation’. People wear headphones as ‘conversational avoidance devices’.” While the internet connects us to the whole world, it is not the real world. When every fact can be checked on Google, “doubt and debate become trivial. There is no time for the thesis, antithesis, synthesis of Socratic dialogue, the skeleton of true conversation”.

He offers some practical suggestions about how to start a conversation as well as a list of conversation killers.

Simon Jenkins is a journalist and author. He writes for the Guardian as well as broadcasting for the BBC.

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News category: Analysis and Comment.

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