People Talking Without Speaking |

4 min read

The “Sounds of Silence” are all around us. We can hear the clicking of buttons for text messaging, but conversation is in big trouble. The convenience of messaging is changing the way we communicate and social interaction is under threat. Why? Because it is just too easy to hit those buttons.

In 1964, Paul Simon wrote, “And in the naked light I saw/Ten thousand people, maybe more/People talking without speaking/People hearing without listening/People writing songs that voices never share/No one dared/Disturb the sound of silence.”

Does this verse illustrate an all-too-real description of human communication today? What have we gained? What have we lost?


What does communication look like in 2023? We have video-on-demand, QR codes, the proliferation of mobile devices, real-time messaging platforms, podcasting, email marketing, a hybrid work environment, and now we have AI. We have gained so much.

Communication, or the imparting or exchanging of information or news, has never been more prolific, accessible, or easy. Communication, which used to be selective, is now constant. We spend most of our day on devices that are designed to make our lives better.

Smartphones have become an appendage. Briefcases, filing cabinets, bookshelves and books, calendars, watches and clocks, televisions, radios, computers, credit cards, money, notebooks, calculators, spelling skills, maps, and memory have all been replaced with this new appendage. We don’t need these things anymore because we have it all in the palm of our hand.

This is a good thing in so many ways. We have eliminated so much clutter in our lives through these incredible advances in technology. What used to take hours now takes only seconds. Technology is no longer a luxury item of life but rather a given.

Paradoxically, choices have increased but, subsequently, so have our limitations. The speed of technological change now dictates the structure of our lives more than ever. We spend more time doing more things.


So, what have we lost? How about communion? Communion is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings. We hear much less about when we might be better off consciously moving from a place of communication to communion. When separating out the two concepts, communication becomes a markedly colder vehicle.

When you only use your brain to communicate, without engaging your consciousness, mindfulness, or connecting to your heart, the brain acts alone. The brain is akin to a big filing system. It will identify previous similar situations and cue us into similar, previously used or observed behaviours and actions.

This means you do not consider the uniqueness of the current situation, the other person, or yourself. In this space of re-acting, you can then overlay past references that might not be relevant and could trigger uncomfortable emotions. By creating a communion, on the other hand, you make space for each party to potentially walk away feeling uplifted, supported, and hopeful. You will have elicited responses from one another, not “re-acted” scenes that have not produced positive outcomes. Communion is tuning into yourself and the other person in the moment.


Technology will not cause humans to lose language, writing, or reading per se, however, it may change all these skills to look very different than they do today. Our spelling may become “text-like” and abbreviated. Our writing skills may become more childlike due to infrequent use. Our reading may become sporadic and predominated by skimming due to time constraints. However, these are probably not the most significant changes on the horizon.

More likely to be our most substantial loss is our ability to experience communion. Communion is composed of two words: “common” and “union.” Common indicates a certain likeness of things, a commonality. You are similar to the other; you are equals. When union enters the picture, the division between you and the other dissolves. The two become one. Rather than seeing the other as being a mere reflection of yourself, they are you. Communion is intimacy.

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A loss of intimacy is the real risk in a future techno world of communication without communion. Social intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, and even physical intimacy are likely to decline.

In 2023, “people talking without speaking and people hearing without listening” already exists. AI will just add more potential loss to the intimacy we are trying so hard to maintain. Machines do make life easier. But not unlike the industrial revolution, nuclear power, the advent of plastics, or smartphones, they do not necessarily make it better.

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