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Is Conversation Doomed?


In our high-speed, inter-connected world, we have adapted our lives to the “Internet of Things”. Our computers, pads and those small electronic gadgets we hold in our hand interact in real time with more and more connected things. Your phone connects to an app. That app connects to a social platform. That social platform connects you with people.

Does it really?

I recently stumbled upon an article about the next phase of connectivity – the intra-connected world where “devices will be worn on us and within us – all interconnected with other devices around us.” These devices will improve and enhance visual and interactive voice. They will contain sensors that have the ability to get to know you — intimately. They will interact with your brain and other organs — your memory. Computer power will be better, faster, stronger and smaller. “As advances are made in all of these areas…we’ll become seamlessly and deeply intra-connected with things and people in our physical and virtual environments.”

Frankly, this scares the hell out of me. I am far from tech-savvy, but if I read between the lines, what I envision is something from a Sci-Fi movie. What I imagine is that our not too distant future includes the reality of being seamlessly and deeply intra-connected with our environment and with people. Devices will become more personal because they are wearable or bio-implanted. And the world becomes a place where everything is connected, tagged and recognizable.

Wait…Even us?

If the next phase of connectivity includes being eternally connected – and visible — does that mean we become the next generation of social insects – or should I say “social inepts” — where individuality, character and the ability to communicate in person are lost forever?

The emergence of this next era of intra-connectivity will create epic opportunities for advancement for humankind.” This may be true.

But at what cost?

Will the very things that make us human be eliminated from humankind?

∞ ∞ ∞

Right now – today – we are presented with an illusion. An illusion that we are connected to one another in a way that matters. I see this far too often. We “talk” with our friends and loved ones through email, texts and chats. We “share” with one another via Selfies or an update on Facebook.

Families sit together at the dinner table with eyes not to each other, but to their Smartphones. At work, Executives text or read email during the weekly Monday Board meeting, especially if the topic being discussed holds no personal interest. We seem to have adapted this new way of being alone together, where we are able to be with each other and somewhere else at the same time. It feels as if the only thing we’ve really gotten more connected to is our keyboards and touch screens. And with that, some sort of comfort level where we are in touch with many – while keeping people at distances we can control. We can present ourselves in the way we want to be – editing or even deleting parts of us we’d rather not have exposed. We end up hiding from one another even as we are constantly connected to one another.

Human relationships are profound and whole. They are also messy and demanding. But instead of saying “yes to the mess”, we continue moving from deep, meaningful conversation to insignificant connection, sharing bits of information in a way that deprives us of fully understanding one another while providing an illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship.

We are “talking” at the expense of conversation. We believe we have unity; but it’s at a surface level and at the expense of relationship.

We have become socially awkward. We don’t know people the way we would if we spent quality time with them (in person or in voice) versus communicating in “bits”.

We don’t understand how to have conversations anymore. Real-life conversations, according to Professor Turkle of MIT, “change in tempo and content. People who engage in those conversations are forced to adapt. That is not the case with people who stick to online discourse.”

We are becoming less human. We need to re-learn interpersonal interaction. Many of us today prefer text or email interaction; as with these platforms, you have more time to construct a response or statement than you do in real conversation.

But to be human in conversation means that you will sometimes speak before you think. It includes making mistakes – or stuttering – or saying something you wish you hadn’t. In short, it means being vulnerable. And that’s the beautiful thing because to be truly human is to be vulnerable. This state of utmost sensitivity – the most human of the human – is what truly connects us…

…And it’s slipping away…

∞ ∞ ∞

Say Yes to the Mess

A couple of months ago, I led a Dialogue workshop where a colleague of mine made a comment during a moment when the group discovered it had fallen out of Dialogue. Her enthusiastic response was, “Say yes to the mess!” This stuck with me…

Well, it’s time to say “yes” to the “mess” — this beautifully complex and challenging process of human relationship.

And if not for ourselves; then for the younger generations. We need to exhibit behavior in our homes and offices that teaches our children and young colleagues the importance of human interaction — in all its magnificence – in all its vulnerability. We need to teach the holders of our future about conversations that matter before they become a lost art in what will be an intra-connected world.


  1. Eric Boukaram on September 15, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Is conversation doomed ? No I don’t think so. Even the geekiest of the geekiest feel the need to have a good ol’ conversation. Sometimes it is easier to have a meaningful conversation through messaging than it is to do so face to face.

    If I remember correctly what we say is just 7% of our communication. For me it means that as long as what’s in my heart can reach the heart of others than I’m good. ^_^

  2. Susan on October 29, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you, Eric, for your comment your important point about connecting with the heart.

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