January 13, 2020 1.45 pm This story is over 27 months old

Community Voices: Mike Spencer – Have we lost the ability to talk?

Can we get back what’s been lost?

Mike Spencer is a Lincolnite Community Voices columnist. He is a retired Property Developer and grandfather of three, has very little spare time due to his involvement in far too many area organisations – or so his wife says! Chairman of his Parish Council being just one of his commitments – to which he was awarded West Lindsey ‘Town/Parish Councillor of the Year 2018’. Mike’s – somewhat diverse hobbies – include weight training and writing.

With many of us diving into the New Year with a vigour for self improvement, perhaps we should give a thought to those who celebrated the Christmas period alone. Loneliness, is without doubt, one of society’s most serious, yet largely ignored issues.

According to a recent survey, a third of us wouldn’t recognise our next door neighbour if we met them in the street. One in four of us have fallen out with someone next door, the common issues being, boundary disputes, noise, pets and loud music. Furthermore, 40% of people of the 2,000 polled in the survey have deliberately avoided neighbours on more than one occasion.

The average UK resident knows six neighbours by name and nine out of 10 of the over-55s don’t know if their neighbours would like to get to know them. Furthermore, half of the total polled said there was no sense of community in their neighbourhood.

I’m sure we’d all like to think much of this doesn’t apply to our own particular village or neighbourhood. However, there’s little doubt with regards to the community spirit issue, the survey is spot on. Even small villages are no longer the ‘tight knit’ communities they once were. Could the simple act of people talking and communicating with one another help address the issue?

As late as the 1960s, many men still worked in their own villages, or at one of the major manufacturing companies in Lincoln, the majority of these catching the early bus to town each morning. In my particular case, the Roadcar ‘103’ from Scunthorpe picked up someone at almost every stop. The youngsters sat on the back seat and talked about where they were going on Saturday night, as the men discussed how the ‘Imps’ had lost yet another match, the bus a ‘hum’ of conversation.

According to research by a well-known national house building contractor, we have a loneliness epidemic. Several members of our local ‘Tuesday Lunch Club’ who live alone, freely admit, it’s the only time during the whole week they sit and chat, or even speak to anyone at all! Today in villages we all live individual lives, with no need of reliance on other residents, our time taken up with work, families, houses and gardens.

Loneliness isn’t exclusive to the elderly, young singles often lead a solitary life too, as more and more people choose to live alone, with one parent families being of particular concern.

The traditional meeting places like pubs are closing at the rate of 80 per week, church congregations are becoming so sparse, soon many churches may go the same way. Most Youth Clubs are now history, as is the ‘Saturday night’ dance at the local Village Hall. The fundamental problem is, any adult under the age of 40 has never known it any other way, which in essence, means this is gradually becoming the accepted norm. Over the years the simple act of talking, whether to family, friends or neighbours has become a lost art.

Perhaps by the year 2099, we’ll have no further use for our voices and live a silent existence, contacting those we need to, by an electronic ‘chip’ ear implant, which will provide us with ‘text telepathy’. According to a friend associated with the Telecom’s Industry, there is just such a scheme under trial, Text Range Implant with Personal Encryption, or ‘TRIPE’ for short. This is currently being trialled on selected teenagers by two of the major ‘air time’ providers.

He goes on to say, “If your child looks blankly when you speak to them, or they totally ignore you and appear to be in a different time dimension, they may be texting or listening to TRIPE”.