Social vs Face-to-Face Conversation

In these times it is quite common to hear about social loneliness, mainly attributable to technology.

The research on the motivations that drive us to communicate online has identified mainly five: maintaining social relationships, meeting new people, social compensation (compensating for communication difficulties present in offline relationships), social inclusion (the need for belonging to a group), have fun. Therefore, the motivations are mainly relational and relationships with others assume fundamental importance when we decide to connect to the network.

The Internet and social networks allow us to stay constantly in touch with our friends, to meet new people who may be on the other side of the world, to be updated on everything that is happening, and to facilitate our approach to others, making us more casual.

We want to be in control of situations and technologies seem to promise us this power. We increasingly tend to flee from direct relationships and prefer mediated communications.

Never in human history has there been so much communication, which, however, does not lead to dialogue, which today remains the most important cultural challenge.

In the new digital world, ignoring whoever is in front of us to answer a cell phone call or reply to a text message has become the norm.

Sounds unbelievable, but with the proliferation of text messages and social networks, it has come to consider it more polite to reply with a message, perhaps mileage, rather than calling that person to speak directly. In short, it is thought that text messages have the purpose of minimizing intrusions into other people’s time. Instead, I think it’s just the opposite: it’s better to send messages or use similar technologies only for impersonal or urgent matters.

The fact is that human relationships are complex, demanding, and often difficult to manage, and for this reason, the technological medium is surprisingly useful for relationships with distant people. They are very powerful tools, yes, but not yet as powerful as a look, a gesture, or an authentic contact. Furthermore, social media often offer us a distorted, we might say “adjusted” view of reality.

Instead, the face-to-face conversation is in real-time and there is no control over what will be said.

Whenever possible, we should appreciate more the richness of face-to-face conversation, because it creates more meaningful bonds with others, helps us to learn more about ourselves and the world around us, to listen to each other, and also through that verbal communication which is not always possible in online interviews.

Abandoning the internet and eliminating virtual communications is clearly not the solution. We run the risk of isolating ourselves. Especially for people who grew up with it, the internet is an indisputable part of life’s ecosystem, creeping into every crack, regardless of our conscious decisions. But with a little goodwill and common sense, one can learn to use technologies to complement, rather than replace, relationships. Also because today we know that, if practiced in excess, solitary distraction on a screen reduces happiness and can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

It’s a sort of mirror room in which we don’t confront each other, we don’t really expose ourselves to the dialogue which, instead, presupposes that I want to expose myself to someone who thinks differently, even running the risk of being wrong.

We won’t go back to the life we lived before this kind of technology, of course. However, we can and must use it carefully, even in the interest of our health.


Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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  1. Quite interesting take on this. You are so right when I go out to dinner with my other half we both have our phones out on the table. And if does disrupt us. We talk a lot less now and get on the phone instead. Wevd even gone as far as to text each other while sitting face to face. You are so right now that I think about it. If we didn’t put the computers down for a break our relationship will be just computed data without the feelings. Great share

    • Yes, it’s very sad. I’ve also seen people ignore spectacular events (like seeing a whale a very short distance away or even inside a museum) preferring to check their cell phone rather than when it was close to them. Obviously, even though I lived when this technology was not even imaginable, I am enthusiastic about it.
      We live constantly in a digital elsewhere. But to understand who we are, to fully understand the world around us, to grow, to love and be loved, we must know how to converse.

  2. I think that technology is moving so fast that we have hardly learned one new technology before part of our network has moved on to another. That is not all bad – if they are kind and appreciate the relationship, they will drag their friends along with a bit of coaching where necessary.

    What we should not refrain from, though, is to evaluate what works and doesn’t work for us. This year, I have put monthly zoom meetings into my schedule for friends on another continent. Realizing that we wanted to talk more often than we got around to “organically”, we changed m.o.

    What we shouldn’t do, either, is bemoan something we don’t get without trying to get it first. That does require making ourselves open to rejection by asking for what we think we need. It is quite possible to send a text saying “do you want to talk? what’s a good time for you?” Until we get a no, we operate on assumptions if we think the other prefers communicating only in the written word.

    • Thanks as always for sharing your knowledge and expertise!
      I agree with what you say. As long as it comes to communicating with those who are not present face to face, technology allows you to solve any problems, even that of using a video call which also allows you to intercept a good part of non-verbal communication.
      The problem is that the cell phone is also used when one is face to face, for example at a restaurant, at a stadium, in a museum, for a walk in an enchanting environment, in environments where one can see and learn about interesting things, perhaps even paid to be there, and we continue to consult the phone for things, let’s confess it, even futile or less instructive than what is around us.
      Conversation, then, is a resource, a human need that the digital mediation of dialogue puts at risk. In particular, there is a close connection between the ability to converse and to empathize, which is in turn essential for forging meaningful relationships with people.