Whither Conversation?

By Husseinali Datoo

(Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

These days it is not difficult to catch attention to the fact that wherever you go..Airport terminal, Doctors Surgery, Community Meetings and Wedding you name it! Everyone,young to old generation are glued to either a smart phone, computer or I pad, some with earpieces on, plugged into their own world of entertainment and private thoughts, knowingly avoiding eye contact with anyone, lest a need should arise for small talk. Gone are the days of conversation that you would encounter in pre technology days!
We all live in a ‘plugged-in’ world where communication is child’s play. But one of the biggest casualties of this connected world has been the art of conversation.
We simply don’t have the patience to talk anymore or even listen to others.

Even when patients come in my clinic their eyes are glued to their phones.

During the Eye Examination, I sometimes encounter a situation when at times I have to wait for their conversation to be over on the phone and they want me to be quick, It’s almost like they are waiting for the ‘talk’ part to get over so they can relax, go back to texting and checking their Facebook statuses.”

We live in a self-absorbed world, talking, arguing, and debating on our own. The moment it becomes real, we lose control. Whether it’s a community issue, a football game or being a good citizen, our inability to listen and talk to people to understand their point of view is loathed.
It could bean ego to convince us that we are victorious because we have avoided defeat.
In herbook Alone Together Sherry Turkle, professor of the social studies of science and technology at the MIT, writes,“One of the main reasons people don’t converse anymore is that a conversation takes place in real time and you can’t control what you are going to say. We get to edit, and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch the face, the voice, the flesh, the body.“

Undeniably, new means of communication are taking over and redefining our lives. People interconnect through social media these days, when earlier they could pick up the phone and talk to them. Conversation will soon disappear from our vocabulary. We speak by choice now, to people to whom actually we want!
This strong need to control what comes out of our minds and mouths is making everyone wary of talking face to face. People can’t get enough of each other, but at the same time, they keep each other at a distance, in amounts they can control.

This option poses a huge crisis for the next generation and lack of conversation compromises our failure to understand and encounter human development.

We are now into a mute world where the best conversation happens within our own head that is alarming. This muteness of our world is deafening.

Conversation scares us because we don’t want to deal with inconvenient truths in our ‘perfect’ worlds. An earplug, in such a scenario, comes in handy to blank out the noise called ‘talk’.

So how did the world become so isolated – so full of people who don’t want to talk to one another?

Our hearts are desperately trying to reach out, but our minds are holding us back. We are hiding our true feelings under the mask of technology.

We have fallen prey to the illusion of friendship, gathering thousands of them on Twitter and Facebook and confusing tweets and wall posts with genuine communication.

What we need to do is to inspire people to be social again.

As technology is affecting our emotional lives.

We should encourage more community gatherings

To Share ideas. To tell stories. To laugh. To Motivate.

Not just when it seems appropriate, but all the time.


Husseinali Datoo is an Optometrists and lives in Dar es salaam.

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