kəˌmyo͞onəˈkāSH(ə)n

If you’re looking at the title and have no idea what that is, it is just the phonetic spelling of communication. Communication is weird because, on the one hand, those symbols above probably confused you and had no meaning to you, but for some reason, this group of symbols does have a meaning: c o m m u n i c a t i o n. If someone was to ask you what is the definition of communication, you might have a hard time coming up with a clear answer. It’s funny how it is hard to communicate the definition of communication. But anyway, we’ll define communication as the process of creating meaning through symbolic interaction. It is odd to think about how some sounds like “twop” mean nothing to us but other sounds like “love” mean a lot to us. Saying both words is essentially the same thing, just a sound coming out of your mouth, but only one means something. Writing is the same way. You can read these symbols because they mean something to you and you understand what each one represents. This on the other hand “01110111 01101111 01110010 01100100” probably doesn’t mean anything to you. But in reality, the numbers above translate to the word “word”. It is interesting how the environment around us shapes us to understand only a selection of sounds and symbols and how we give meaning to them.

For humans, communication is very important though. Communication does many things, but the two most important tasks it does is satisfies our physical and identity needs.

Evidence suggests that an absence of communication can jeopardize a humans life. Some hazards that result from lack of communication and close relationships are

  • “People who lack strong relationships have 2 to 3 times more risk of early death, regardless of whether they drink, smoke, or exercise.
  • Terminal cancer strikes socially isolated people more often than those who have close personal relationships.
  • Divorced, separated, or widowed people are 5 to 10 times more likely to need hospitalization for mental problems than their married counterparts.
  • Pregnant women under stress and without supportive relationships have 3 times more complications than pregnant women who suffer the same stress but have strong social support.
  • Socially isolated people are 4 times more susceptible to the common cold than those who have active social networks.”

Research shows the importance of communication and having strong healthy personal relationships. But communication and relationships also give us more. It gives us the ability to know who we are.

Our sense of identity comes from the way we interact with other people. Are we smart, dumb, ugly, attractive, funny, weird, or skillful? The answers to the questions don’t come from looking in a mirror, rather from looking at how others react to us. We get our idea of who we are from the way that others define us. An example of this is the cause of “Wild Boy Aveyron,” who spent his early childhood without any human contact. He was discovered digging for vegetables in a garden and he had no behaviors expected in a human. He couldn’t speak but he did utter weird sounds and he had no sense of identity as a human. Roger Shattuck said “the boy had no human sense of being in the world. He had no sense of himself  as a person related to other persons.” It took the influence of a loving and caring “mother” to change the boy to behave like a human and think of himself as one too. It is scary to think that without human contact and communication we could be turned back into “animals” that fast!

But these show us that communication is important to all of us. It not only physically helps us, but it also allows us to identify who we are. This shows that we need to get out there and form real relationships in order to physically be healthy and it also shows us how we need to treat others. If our identity is formed from the reaction of other people, it is imperative that we treat others the way we want to be treated. Be respectful and kind to everyone, and enjoy their company. Their mental and physical health depends on it. But this also raises a question. Today we live in a world where communication is changing faster than ever. Everyone has phones, emails, social media, facetime, and it plans on getting more advanced. So, the question is, are these new technologies really helping us form stronger relationships? Do they help give us a stronger sense of identity? Today it seems that small talk and the ability to effectively communicate in person is getting worse while it is getting easier to talk behind a screen. It seems that peoples self-identity is less about how their loved ones view them and more about how their followers view them.

Are these technologies actually helping us evolve human communication in a healthy way?

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