Anita Kemp Ph.D. Blog

Ideas for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

FACE-TO-FACE versus TEXT/ONLINE

We are all being asked to Zoom, Skype, text, email instead of talking face-to-face. What are the implications for our humanity? The June Psychology Today issue addressed this in the article “Face Value.”

Here is a brief summary. Stephen Porges, neurocientist, sees our bodies as polygraph machines. Our autonomic nervous system picks up signals from people when we are with them. Are they safe? Are they dangerous? This process is beyond the words being said and beyond our conscious control. Our bodies know.¬† If we sense safety, we begin to synchronize and mirror each other. The mirroring allows empathy and as the process continues oxytocin gets released and we bond. We pick up subtle fluctuations in facial muscles that convey emotions. None of this can happen online or with text. A study looked into texting versus in person conversations between mothers and daughters. Bonding did not happen in the texting group. There are also nonverbal vocal cues that we pick up. Think of how many ways “I am happy to see you” can be expressed vocally with very different undertones.

These are things we inherently know but have been forgetting as our society becomes more tech and less in person. Even more concerning as we don’t use our in person skills, circuits and pathways in the brain atrophy. We lose the ability of reading people’s faces, empathy and bonding. I am reminded about a recent experience as National Park officer was prepping a group of us for our backpack. He was talking about the dangers and potential emergency situations. One young man had a question – “If I see someone hurt, should I stop and check on them?” This astounded me. Quoting from the Psychology Today article – ” When we move through the world with a level-headed gaze, we see others and feel responsible for those in distress. In our digital lives, it’s easier to turn away, but each time we do, we risk losing the capacity for empathy.

Perhaps this stopping due to Covid  19 will help us reassess our priorities.

April 30, 2020 Posted by | Emotional Well Being, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment