In this week’s column, The History Hound’s Richard MacLeod tries to understand why the “old fun” seems to be gone.
When was the last time you had an old-fashioned conversation? We don’t go on Facebook or email or chat briefly about the weather with our neighbors while we’re in a hurry somewhere. It’s a two-way exchange. Just a few years ago, I remember having so many high quality interactions with people around my community.
I started thinking about this topic shortly after having a good old conversation on Main Street and decided to do some more research.
Research on whether the amount of face-to-face conversation is actually decreasing is inconclusive. But I think the quality of interaction with the community has definitely taken a hit. Clearly, the habit of communicating via social media and email has generally reduced the ability and opportunity for “one-on-one” interactions.
Ironically, I communicate with you online. My preferred form of communication about our history is a presentation or heritage walk. My presentation at the Newmarket Public Library returns this month, so I hope I can re-establish the personal connections I enjoy.
I also enjoy doing one-on-one oral history interviews. We may not fully realize just how much of our heritage was first recorded orally and passed down month by month for generations. Ethel Trewela, local author The genius of the 19th century recorded these oral histories and brought them into printed form for us to enjoy today.
I often look back on my childhood while learning from someone who knows the history of the town. Sitting with my elders, I paid tribute to all the stories of my past, the brief biographies of those around me, and understood where I fit in in the world around me.
One of the common regrets I hear from people I interview is the fact that they didn’t talk more with their ancestors.
As I left home, someone asked how my family was doing and kept me up to date with the latest news from around the Niagara and Queen Street communities. At the time, we were part of a neighborhood community, talking to each other.
Shopping with my mother and grandmother involved leisurely strolls down Main Street and Newmarket Plaza, rather than rushing home to pick up items. We seemed to have spent hours chatting with merchants and fellow shoppers. We knew everyone and knew the pulse of our community.
I never fully understood the joy inherent in this experience, but I miss those days now. This is probably why I still go to Main Street every day to “do the rounds” and always stop at my favorite watering holes like Soupa or Metropolis for coffee and local chat.Continental on Main It was a pleasure every month to get my hair done. That’s where you went to find out what’s really going on in town.
There are a myriad of culprits for the breakdown of conversation, but the crux of it all is that we are so short on time. It looks like a relic of an era.
But it is too simplistic to say that modern life keeps us away from deep relationships. Today I definitely have more connections than when I was younger, but I feel more isolated. Today I often feel uncomfortable and my mind is unstimulated.
It is often said that Newmarket was a very different place when I was younger, when it was sparsely populated and everyone knew their neighbors. Not sure it’s about numbers.
Last week I attended the Mayor’s Embankment and there was a large crowd. Some were familiar, but most were relative strangers. Watching veteran communicators like Mayor and Jackie Prater develop intimate relationships with those around them immediately transported me back to my youth when the skills of effective communication were much more prevalent. Today, when I meet these people, I am in awe. They are a throwback to the days of my mother and grandmother.
In the monument business for nearly 70 years, my grandfather dealt with communities during dark times in his life, but was proud of his ability to have open conversations.In the late 1960s, he told me, He warned of the widening gap between expressing personal feelings and speaking out. He argued that we were losing the nuances of body language, emotions and experiences. I should have listened to him.
Instead of impromptu chats with people we meet on the street, shopping, or walking around the neighborhood, we turn to a world of online apps and highly edited messages to help us form new bonds. We don’t see them, and they don’t see us.
In the past, face-to-face interactions were the only option, so our brains were preoccupied with having such conversations. Our brains are so sensitive to changes in facial expressions and body language that much of this has been lost as we move to phone calls, emails and online communication.
Research shows that our communication skills are generally declining. For example, children’s social abilities decline as they prioritize virtual contact over face-to-face interactions. Studies have shown that after just five days without a digital screen, these same children significantly improved their ability to read human emotions, and their natural instincts began to reappear.
Further research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that conversations between adults and children between the ages of 4 and 6 change the way children’s brains form and are important for language development.
There is also strong evidence that this reduction in social contact has a negative impact on mental health. They found that they were half as likely to develop depression as those who did not.
When you form deep connections with community members, family members, or close friends, a chemical called ‘oxytocin’ is produced in your brain. This is commonly called the love and bond chemical that stays with us in the long run.
Whether at home, at work, or with friends and family, we are very likely to experience the feeling that we are not being heard. Or knowing that other people know where we are in this world is essential for all of us.
It became important to increase opportunities for conversation. I had to accept that establishing effective conversations takes time, and I had to proactively set aside time to talk to friends and colleagues.
As I write my weekly column, I realize that I need to be more interested in what other people think and feel. Ask them and then ask. I tend to ask more questions and answer less. I had to remember that one of the most important gifts I could give someone was my attention. it was done.
In a previous article, we discussed the concept of Main Street. The boulevard is generally the meeting place of the community. A main street can be found anywhere people gather, it doesn’t have to be a specific geographic location. It’s everywhere, from concert nights at the Riverwalk Commons to parks, sports venues and conference halls.
The Main Street concept represents an ideal space where our community can practice the highest values, including civility, tolerance and commerce. Main Street’s endurance demonstrates its importance in fostering a sense of community, even in a society as divided as ours.
I was a particularly shy child and was probably responsible for our socioeconomic situation, so of course my mother became worried about me. and taught me more about conversational skills, as some parents did at the time.
We asked them to share the nuances of a successful conversation and highlighted the five steps common to all conversations: start, share, business, get feedback, and end.
Finally, I would like to remind you that real-life conversations can serve one or more of the following purposes:
- Information: Obtaining or communicating information or understanding facts (know-how), processes (know-how), contacts (know-how). learn from each other.
- Making sense: Getting a sense of something beyond the facts, especially on complex issues.
- Perspectives or Points of View: Obtaining different points of view or moving towards a consensus.
- Change: Challenge and change someone’s perspective or intentions.
- Ideas: Generate ideas, explore possibilities, imagine.
- Collaboration: To be able to effectively create some shared artifacts.
- Deepen or create relationships: To connect and build relationships with other people.
- Entertaining or having fun: having fun, joking, gossiping, flirting.
- Recognition, attention or reputation: obtaining or giving it.
- Gratitude, empathy, or reassurance: getting or giving it.
- Decision: to make a decision.
- Problem Solving: Finding a solution or finding the best way to deal with a problem.
- Uncovering Problems: Finding hidden problems and unintended consequences of our actions.
- To share who you are: where you come from figuratively and geographically, your personal history and your “people” history.
I know this article is a little different than many of my usual articles, but it represents one of the true joys of my youth: conversations in the good old community, and this is life in Newmarket. I would like to suggest that it is the element that I value the most. It is a treasure and should be carefully preserved and nurtured.
Source: The Power of Conversation: The Purpose of Conversation by David Gurteen. The Role of Communication in Community Development by Dr. Alma EO.The Art of Oral History Interview
Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod — a history hound — has been a local historian for over 40 years. He has partnered with Newmarket His Today to write a weekly magazine on the history of our town, to conduct heritage lectures and walking his tours of local interest, and to local oral his histories. I am leading an interview with