October 11, 2018

How to have more meaningful conversations

One of the most commonly asked questions about any friendship is ‘Where did you two meet?’

For anyone born before the rise of the internet, this question will often lead to a real destination; a bar, an office, a coffee shop. But for a growing proportion of the population, connections are being made and maintained in the digital sphere.

Whether meeting a significant other on a dating app or using WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends overseas, the general consensus has been that technology has made society more connected to one another. But a recent survey by the Red Cross identified a technological disconnect, revealing that ‘the rise of digital and online engagement, was seen as less meaningful’ and despite access to instant messaging services 32% of 18-24 year olds said they experience loneliness always or often.

Isolation is present even in public spaces; arenas where individuals are free to interact with one another are heavily populated with people glued to their screens, forgoing more meaningful interactions with ‘real’ friends. Instead their digital interactions are interspersed with a stream of one-way communications, as people consume on-demand media and scroll through pages of people they have never met.

Heineken’s #openyourworld campaign shone a light on the divisiveness of the digital world. By throwing individuals with polarised opinions together, the viewer’s expectation is one of conflict, however through conversation they each discover a common ground and are far more sympathetic to one another’s beliefs despite their differences.

When Unity was asked to help create a space that encouraged this kind of conversation whilst discouraging isolation, we knew we had a real opportunity to increase human happiness.

Costa Coffee’s adoption of the Chatty Café initiative – a scheme which dedicates a space in every store for those who are happy to interact with strangers, not only addresses the growing problem of loneliness, but also encourages a ‘meaningful dialogue’, uncensored by the emotional limitations of text and audio. These interactions can convey the nuances of humour, compassion and solidarity that are so easily lost in the digital sphere.

At Unity we believe the companies which have an open dialogue with their audience, who listen to their collective sentiment, who are willing not just to shape but be shaped by their audience, are the organisations which will survive and thrive. We are constantly adapting to an ever-shifting consumer consciousness, to corporate and societal trends and the only way we keep up with it all is by talking to those in the know, having conversations of discovery and sharing knowledge.

Joe Garbow, Account Assistant at Unity