I have always believed that one of the things that really distinguishes humans from the rest of the creatures that populate our planet is the ability to think, process and communicate verbally with each other.
I am beginning to think that there is a strong chance that within a few generations that ability may well be lost.
Whereas a few years ago a teenager would be told off for spending too much time on the phone (landline call only after 18:00 when cheap call time kicks in), today you’d be lucky to get them to pick up a phone to order a pizza. The majority of their communication is through online chat rooms with little use of the human voice.
In an office, instead of getting up and walking across the room to speak to a colleague, the majority will likely email, text or use an intergroup chatroom such as Slack. Not only are we in danger of losing our voices, but also our legs.
As a PR I often find myself on the wrong end of the conundrum of do I call or email a journalist. While many journalists request communication by email only there are times when a two-minute call would do the job so much better and bring the human touch back into the equation.
I don’t mean a call that asks the journalist whether they actually looked at the press release sent out that morning – it’s not something I would ever advocate. But a fact-finding call that can ensure a good PR delivers the journalist what they are actually looking for. However, most of the time my calls go straight to voicemail.
So what has prompted this outburst?
I found out, while reading about the ban on children raising their hands to answer questions in school, that raising your hand to ask a question is also a thing of the past – and not just at junior education level.
Today’s university students no longer have to worry about the embarrassment of asking an inane question in a lecture as there are apps, such as Piazza and MeeToo, which allow you to anonymously send a question to the whiteboard for the lecturer to reply to. So the lecturer has no idea who it is that might be struggling.
Where is the interaction in all this that might spark more conversation and insight? Are we all going to hide behind our tablets and smartphones rather than be seen to ask the wrong question? Is being embarrassed not a rite of passage anymore?
Or, is it just me?