I was eating breakfast today, alone, watching other people (yes, watching, but not like a creepy watching, but more like a natural observation experiment, almost) when I started wondering whether or not other people watch people too. I looked around, and people who were together were obviously talking to one another, but everyone I saw alone was either toying with a cell phone, typing on a laptop, or vigorously engaged in their food.

I suppose it’s not true for absolutely everyone (as most ideas and theories are wont to have exceptions), but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.

People spend so much time on the internet or texting on phones that what if people are losing certain communication skills? Think about it. On the internet, you don’t have body language to read. You don’t have tones of voice to analyze. You don’t have a face expression to give you the subtleties of how someone is -really feeling-. All you have are the characters that are typed in front of you.

In fact, you can hardly analyze the characters written in front of you. Sometimes people will not respond to messages immediately, Why? There could be multiple reasons. It could be that they’re running off to the bathroom; that they’re considering what you’re saying; that they’ve run away from their computer to eat lunch; that they honestly do not want to talk to you anymore. The fact is, there is too much uncertainty behind the computer screen for you to understand what someone is -really- saying, which is why sarcasm is sometimes rather difficult to detect over the internet.

“So what does this entail?” I asked myself. I was able to draw a few conclusions that may or may not be accurate, but, again, interesting to think about nonetheless.

One, people are becoming worse at interpreting face expressions. Body language seems fairly easy to read, and if you want to learn more about it, there are numerous books on just that subject. Tone of voice is also fairly easy to read, especially because movies and radio incorporate tone of voice so frequently. Face expressions, however, have a certain subtlety to them. They can’t be caught over the radio, or through pictures usually. Even movie actors fail to portray them accurately. How? A fake smile and a real smile have certain subtleties to them (and if you think you can spot them accurately, I encourage you to try this test and see for yourself before reading on). I will tell you the difference later.

Two, people are becoming better at reading words. Indeed, words are a fairly accurate indicator to detecting lies (for example, people who lie tend to remember exact dates than people who don’t, or people who are telling the truth tend to be able to relay their emotions about an event better, at least according to Richard Wiseman, Ph. D. in psychology (of course, even with credentials you should go out and test these ideas for yourself)). So it could be that people are better in spotting lies in words.

Three, people are becoming worse at public speaking, or interfacing with individuals face-to-face. This is definitely not true for all cases, but let me at least get my idea across. In a chatroom or a forum, people have as long as they want to respond to a message. This is one of the biggest differences between chatrooms and live conversations. Now, if people fall into the routine of being able to take their time responding to messages, they won’t be as quick to thinking on their feet. The people aren’t less intelligent, per se, they just might be having difficulty communicating as fast as live communication demands. Perhaps this is why news outlets are claiming that the current generation of teenagers is getting dumber and dumber. They’re not less intelligent, they’re just more used to speaking through chatrooms than speaking live.

All of these are to be taken with a grain of salt, but I thought I’d share my ideas here nonetheless.

Oh, by the way, look at the eyes for the smile. :wink:

EDIT: Oh, before anyone here asks, no I don’t have any evidence behind this. It’s all speculation. Almost like a scientist proposing a hypothesis. I guess if I wanted to ask something, I’d ask, “Does this make sense, and do you see this happening, or is this outright wrong?”

I never thought about it like that, very well put. :mrgreen:
I got 14 out of 20 right, looking at their eyes helps alot.

“You got 17 out of 20 correct.” (Two of them were women, hmm).

Sean, some of your theories strike me as very interesting whilst very literary too. Yes, literary; literary as in come from a work of fiction! The thing is, I would say, you’re not talking about human behaviour in general as much as you’re talking about your own culture. Having grown up in the middle of an Italian family in the heart of the Brazilian countryside, I don’t think I could have been striked by your post as something downright alien more than I did. :smile:

You seem to explain this phoenomenon solely by the advance of non-personal means of communication, this sounds like a good preliminary hypothesis, but— can’t it also be a matter of language? I don’t mean to imply English is “a cold language” whereas Brazilian would be a “warmer language”, by all means, no! But, what I notice about you and y’ friends in chat is that, often, you guys resort to some very academic language and long explanations.

You, you and a couple of others, just can’t let some things be, as if you couldn’t dare to speak. This, of course, is not an aspect of the English language as a whole (my conversations with DayLight, for instance, couldn’t be more distant from that kind of language), but rather a marker of the kind of culture and mindset that surrounds you. And that mindset, of course, has technology as one of its crucial aspects, but then again, even a complete computer geek isn’t necessarily handicapped in face-to-face communication skills.

But your implying that this culture is somewhat “bad” or “wrong” — this very culture you would seem to be conforming to — that’s very, very interesting. I’d like to hear more about how you perceive your surroundings, you might be on to something, you know? There’s always an insight at play when we feel that the social structures around us are wrong.