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  Books   11 Oct 2017  In times of social media, are we all listening?

In times of social media, are we all listening?

Published : Oct 11, 2017, 12:51 am IST
Updated : Oct 11, 2017, 12:51 am IST

In his book, Arun Maira talks about how communications have become shallower.

Arun maira
 Arun maira

Social media and communication systems have expanded vastly over the last couple of  decades, thereby changing the ways people communicate. The reach has become immense, but are we really listening to the people around us? Former Planning Commission member and management consultant Arun Maira answers the question in his book, Listening for Well-Being, published by Rupa Publications.

“Once, when my grandson residing in the U.S. visited the Planning Commission along with me, he saw the poor on the roads. After returning to the U.S., he was asked to write a piece on what he did that summer. He described the Planning Commission and wrote, ‘It is where the poor people of India can come. However, if there will be someone who can listen to these poor people, they might not be poor anymore.’ That struck me hard!” begins Arun Maira, continuing, “The government was not listening to the people.”

In his book, Arun Maira talks about how communications have become shallower. “With the ability to stay in touch virtually, people are spending less time physically with others. And even when they are, they are all still alone because they are busy with their smartphones and not even looking at each other. The increased reach of social media is causing a damage to the richness of one-to-one communication. And as a result of this, people are now losing their ability to have empathy with others,” he adds.


Sharing about how listening can solve problems in human relationships, the author reveals, “Developing the habit of good listening can help one get rid of misunderstandings with people, which often result in needless conflicts. Good listening can lead to better understanding of others and enable people to work together more effectively.”

When asked what is an example of a good community that communicates well, Arun responds, “Wherever communities have spaces in which people frequently meet each other and discuss together, there can be richer communication within communities. Social and political scientists have observed that the presence of many community halls, local governance organisations, etc, in which people regularly meet and talk, can create social solidarity. It must have communication systems with a wide reach (which the internet can provide). There should be many places where people can frequently meet to effectively converse with each other.” 

Tags: rupa publications, arun maira