“Everybody’s talkin’ at me. I can’t hear a word they’re sayin’. Only the echoes of my mind.” The Beautiful South
Or, as defined by my dictionary:
Talk (vb): to express one’s thoughts or feelings by means of spoken words; to exchange ideas or opinions about something.
I’m on Twitter. I tweeted 25,000 times in a year. I’m clearly a person who likes to talk. The whole idea of Twitter is communication; what you are doing, where you are going, debate about current affairs, news updates, and the inevitable #XFactor chat (Le sigh). It is, in effect, an online version of an office, a common room, a pub. A place for debate and chat between like-minded (or not) individuals. We are human beings, we need to communicate. John Donne was absolutely spot on when he wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself“.
However I have also been thinking; do we talk about things too much?
For example, I know a woman (not on Twitter, if you are wondering) who articulates what appears to be her every thought. She doesn’t specifically talk to me, it’s more a stream of consciousness I am aware of when in her vicinity. I know about her home life, her husband, her dilemma of being too hot or too cold, what she should eat for lunch, whether she should phone her sister not, her dilemmas (myriad) over the next course of action on a case. I have been known to put headphones in just so I can get something done myself.
It’s not the noise factor I particularly object to, though sometimes a bit of silence would be nice, it’s the over-sharing. I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to know the intimate (or not) details of her evening at home. She is an extreme example but taking to my other great sphere of communication, Twitter, I regularly see: break ups, arguments (personal), and serious over-sharing of the bedroom & bathroom variety. And sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if it is all really necessary.
Do we really all need to hear about what X said to Y, the details (and I mean intimate) of your last doctors/dentist/hospital appointment? If your other half was a pain last night, is right we hear all about how selfish/ignorant/uncaring they are? I know that communication is an essential part of us but surely there needs to be a balance?
Is there sometimes value in a stiff upper lip, putting a brave face and getting on with life? Is it sometimes healthier to do that? Having a “stiff upper lip” has always seemed to me a very upper class, even aristocratic trait. Particularly English and generally more predominantly male. These are my views, I haven’t conducted any kind of scientific study into the matter. But there are times when I think it is a trait to be emulated.
For instance, how hard would it be to say “I’m ok, thanks” in reply to a question about how you are? You could even be really daring and say you were good, instead of the over-spill of detail about your work problems, relationship woes, and incipient health worries. It’s not necessarily about truth in these circumstances, it’s sociolinguistics, a way of establishing contact with other people. It’s the same as talking about the weather so why not try appreciating the lingering Autumnal sunshine, rather than complaining about the cold?
So what do you think? Are you a chronic (over?) sharer or a stiff upper lipper? Do you like hearing all the intimate details of other lives and woes or do you sometimes wish everyone would just shut up? Thoughts on a comment box-shaped postcard, please.
My own personal caveat: there are mental health issues, life events, accidents, all so horrific that counselling is the only way. We suffer accidents, witness atrocities, have vile things done to us or our loved ones. Then I firmly believe in the power of talking and listening as part of the way to help us heal.