Focus set on jobs losses – Direct human communication is at greater risk from technology

With all the focus on robots and machines taking over jobs, soft and interpersonal skills are rapidly diminishing

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According to a study by Pew Research on 4000 US adults, 72% expressed wariness about machines performing tasks done by humans.

But what about basic, direct conversations affected by tech? The human touch, waning day by day?

With the world more connected than ever before, regular face-to-face communication is taking a direct hit, with damaging effects on our efforts to socialize.

In two separate studies by Dr. Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, 34 different pairs of strangers, in each study, were asked to converse with each other for 10 minutes about ‘an interesting event that occured to you over the past month’. All participants were seated in a private booth. For half of them, a mobile phone was placed close by on a table but not in direct line of sight. For the remaining set of pairs, a note-book was placed instead of the phone.

After their meeting, the participants were asked about their partner they just met. The ones with a mobile phone nearby, in comparison to the ones with a note-book nearby, were less positive on the possibility of them becoming friends and felt less related to their chatting partner.

In the similar second study with new set of participants, with a mobile phone or a note-book placed nearby, some of the 34 pairs of participants talked about a mundane topic, while others spoke about ‘the most meaningful events of the past year’.

For participants who engaged in meaningful discussion and with a note-book nearby, as opposed to a phone, increased their trust level, proximity and feeling of closeness with their pairing partner.

Afterwards, participants were informed about the study, but they appeared to be unaware of the effects of phone in the room, hinting its inauspicious effects were at subconscious level.

Przybylski and Weinstein concluded: “These results indicate that mobile communication devices may, by their mere presence, paradoxically hold the potential to facilitate as well as to disrupt human bonding and intimacy.”

Above studies suggest that the mere presence of a mobile device interferes with the feelings on intimacy and willingness to build a meaningful conversation.

Building meaningful, direct conversation requires effort, urge to fight for putting mobile down and start talking with the acquaintance. Is it the technology or humans are just not interested in talking, building meaningful discussions with each other or adapted to become lazy when it comes to direct conversations?

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