By Kel Tan
Phones are ubiquitous in this day and age; and as technology increases the accessibility and flow of information – we now, quite literally, have the world at our fingertips.
But does this have a negative impact on verbal communication? Is this harming our relationships with our friends, partners and children? I Love Children interviewed a few people and got them to weigh in..
Thanks to dating apps, more people are forming relationships online but such apps can be both a boon and a bane.
“Once, I went on a date with a guy I met on a dating app. I had the shock of my life when he tried to put my hands on his groin while we were in the cinema… I walked out on him after leaving a lasting impression on his little finger,” recalls Lillian. “Eventually, I met my husband via that same app. We chatted online for four months before going on our first date.”
Kai Sheng met his current girlfriend two years ago through a dating app. “I’m often too shy to ask girls for their number, for fear of rejection and humiliation,” he confides. “At least through an app, you know that there’s a high chance the girl in question is genuinely looking for a relationship.”
Ting probably sums it up best. “Dating apps may help those who are too shy to approach people face-to-face, but I feel that the human connection may be lost,” she says. “It’s also not entirely trustworthy – I’ve met guys who turn out to be quite different from their online personality. Also, some people are just looking for one-night stands.”
On the flip side, technology can help bridge distance when it comes to established relationships. “My husband and I communicate via text and video calls often when he is based overseas, which is majority of the time,” shares Lillian. “As I’m currently based overseas for work, my girlfriend and I usually text and video call each other. But when I come back for good, I hope that face-to-face communication will be our main mode of interaction,” adds Kai Sheng.
When it comes to improving verbal communication with your partner, Lilian suggests making time for coffee dates. “Put your phone in your bag and ask each other about the day or week,” she says. “It’s important to fully focus on each other.”
Christopher wholeheartedly agrees that people are now talking less with their friends as a result of text messaging. “My friends and I primarily communicate via WhatsApp as it’s easy to use,” he says. “However, people these days end up using GIFs and emoticons to express themselves, instead of explaining how they really feel.”
His views are echoed by Nursuhailah. “Texting is more convenient as we’re not obliged to reply immediately, especially when we’re busy,” she shares. “Unfortunately, some people prefer to communicate via text even if the person they’re talking to is right beside them!”
This digital age phenomenon is further exacerbated by social media. “My friends and I no longer have to meet up regularly just to check in on how everyone is doing. All we have to do is follow each other on Facebook or Instagram and we would know what the other person is up to,” admits Michelle.
When it comes to maintaining verbal communication with friends, all three felt that it boils down to making a concerted effort. “We can try meeting up with our friends more often to share our experiences in person,” says Nursuhailah. “It’s all about taking the initiative,” adds Christopher.
Celestine, a mother of three, feels that technology is increasingly impinging on parent-child interaction. She tries to restrict its effects by minimising her children’s screen time. “As far as possible, I try not to give my kids phones or tablets as a means of entertaining them,” she shares. “It’s bad for their eyes and also affects their ability to concentrate. Plus, using phones at mealtimes isn’t good for digestion.”
On the other hand, Rose, a mother of one, thinks that most parent-child relationships still entail a significant amount of verbal communication. “Homework time is great for interaction. Plus, children often ask questions that require verbal explanations on their parents’ part,” she says.
Nevertheless, both parents feel that verbal communication is paramount – and that one of the most conducive times to connect with your child is right before bed. “Always ask your child about their day before tucking them in,” suggests Celestine. “Try creating imaginative bedtime stories with your child. You can each take turns coming up with a single sentence, from the beginning all the way to the end of the story. This has helped increase my child’s confidence and verbal communication skills,” adds Rose.
What do you think? Have we really forgotten what verbal communication is?