When it comes to how we talk about things, these days that often veers between anger, despair, indignation, attack, frivolity, or many other challenging responses. While that might be incredibly difficult to navigate, it’s presumably also a sign we’re trying to engage with complexity and find ways forward.
At times it seems this adds fuel to the fire, an overlay of possibly unhelpful reactions that create further problems and may often detract from what genuinely needs to be addressed (see Notes One). Everything can then begin to seem so contentious that we don’t risk saying anything at all, fearful of setting a foot wrong despite all our best intentions and however much we may try to foresee every conceivable side of things.
Language and conversation start to feel dangerous. We might choose to come out fighting, decide not to care, or retreat from it altogether. Because surely as soon as we speak we adopt a perspective, the words we choose and their underlying assumptions revealing more than we may be aware. And if our lives shape us, forming our ideas, then our understanding must necessarily tend to be limited and incomplete (Note Two).
The open communication we’re now able to have with the assistance of technology seems to be bringing with it the full weight of our histories and a considerable challenge to our ability to communicate (Notes Three). After all, there are no definitive rules in that realm. We might have our own sense of what we mean and how we intend it to be received, but does that carry? Our words may be taken in quite a different light.
The nuance of language; what we mean, say or imply; the unspoken context and nature of our personalities; how clear or indirect we may be; where our personal priorities lie; and ways we might inadvertently use communication to provoke responses – all this has a life of its own through the veil of tech, where so much is taken out of our hands and our immediate environment.
With the internet, conversations essentially become permanent and subject to interpretation. The relative safety of talking with friends, or at least those who care about you on some level, shifted to a vastly different forum. How best to communicate in that space is a fascinating and daunting reality.
In the post referenced on Mirrors, I spoke of how we seem to find meaning and understanding through our place in the world and our interactions with others. If we view communication as a way of ‘testing’ ideas, articulating our best attempt at grasping something, then a social process of feedback or adjustment can serve us well: opening our perspectives through this interpersonal journey of language.
The internet, being a public record and a very influential one, may not be the place for that kind of exploratory conversation. But if we cannot talk, express ourselves and change our views if we see we’re mistaken, then it seems we might be losing an essential human function.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Anger as a voice
Note 1: We may as well laugh
Note 2: Mirrors we offer one another
Note 3: Modern media and complex realities
Note 3: The web and the wider world
Note 3: Empathy in a world that happily destroys
Note 3: Things we can’t talk about