Sunday, February 3, 2008

A life of no-talking

I used to be quite amazed when I heard someone who took a vow not to speak for, say, a year or so for religious practice. How can one even survive without going nuts if he or she is not allowed to communicate with anyone? Isn't human interaction essential for sanity?

In this age of computer wizardry, I think the vow of no-talking can actually be achieved quite easy. I am personally doing this right now, well, without even taking a vow. Since I am writing my thesis at home everyday for the past two months, I have reduced my talking to minimal without even trying. For example, the last time I have talked with anyone was, I believe, last Thursday, which is four days ago. Before that, I barely spoke with anyone (perhaps one or two telemarketing person).

Then of course, I "chat" on line, msn, emailing..things that technically should not be included as "talking" but in theory it is the same as talking. Those are, after all, exchange of ideas, which is the reason why we talk. And I think my sanity is kept because of these alternate routes for communication.

Or is it the same? I think there is still a difference between talking verbally and talking using a computer. One simple and obvious distinction is the ability to correct your thoughts before hitting the "enter" key. This obviously is difficult to achieve when you talk verbally. So does that mean mistakes won't be made if we all talked via computer? Not necessarily, as another obvious differences is that subtleties such as facial expression and body language is lost when we communicate by a machine. The use of emoticons, however, has alleviated this problem somewhat, so you will know I am just joking about you gaining weight if I put ;-) at the end of the sentence.

Those are obvious differences that even a kid knows. But what I am thinking is, are there any psychological differences when we "speak" through typing compared to using the mouth and tongue? After all, I am sure the area of the brain that control typing is different than those that control the vocal cord/mouth. Now that I have reduced talking to minimal, I realize that there is a certain pleasure in talking verbally. Not the face to face part (I use video msn which is almost face to face anyway), but the mechanical use of my mouth/vocal cord/lungs. There is something organic to it, which cannot be replaced by typing. I can't really pinpoint what exactly it is (maybe a longer time of no-talking will help?). An fMRI study in this will be kinda cool, actually (if someone is willing to give funding to study in such a trivial matter).

Actually, it may not be trivial. This may shed some light in the evolution of human speech. Out of so many ways for communication, vocal communication is favoured by natural selection. I mean, we could have communicated by say gestures and signs. There must be some inheriting advantage in using the vocal cords/mouth compared to using hands etc for communicating, not just because of something like the effectiveness of vocal communication, but rather the sheer satisfaction in using those little muscles in our mouth.

Well, I am almost done with my thesis writing, so I will soon be able to enjoy these little excitement every time I talk to someone!

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