“Honey, let’s build bridges, not walls” about breaking down the barriers that hinder communication

Bridges connect river banks and street sides. They open the way to the outside world, sometimes leading into the unknown. Open paths to new things, overcome obstacles, even whole canyons. Above all, bridges connect people. In love, in relationships, in everyday life, in working life. They are bridges of the most different kind and way, which we need, often not knowing, in our life. Depending on the situation in life again and again. And sometimes several at once. Instead of looking for the right bridge, using it or even building it ourselves, we humans unfortunately tend to wall ourselves in. Isaac Newton already stated, "Man builds too many walls and too few bridges."

The digital wall

There is even a very current wall example for this, namely the cell phone. With the photo project "Phone Wall," Chinese designer Shiyang He has struck a chord with the times. In an advertising campaign for the Shenyang Center for Psychological Research, Shiyang He illustrated how smartphones can affect family relationships. Although mobile devices have opened up a world of possibilities for both business and personal purposes, the campaign shows that there is a high price to pay for the daily use of this constant technology. In fact, the caption reads: "The more we connect, the less we connect."

This observation is visualized by the presence of a giant phone wall in each of the images of the creative. The cell phone wall sums up how much people’s personal interactions suffer when they’re too busy with their smartphones. Whether it’s with a partner or a child, it’s easy to get lost in such devices instead of nurturing the relationships that really matter. In essence, Shiyang He reminds people that there is an important world that exists outside of the internet and individual smartphones. Although four years ago, the advertising message appeared back in 2015, the statement remains timely. More specifically, the prompt behind it. That we can all get rid of this wall of isolation if we just rethink our daily routine. And it’s not just about the cell phone as a symbol of the wall that separates us from others.

It is the encounters with people that make life worth living.

Guy de Maupassant

Cell phone wall

The "cell phone wall © Ogilvy (for the Center For Psychological Research, Shenyang)

Yesterday is not today

Of course, this is all much easier said than done, because the digital village in which we live today brings us many conveniences and advantages, but also serious disadvantages. How was that again? There is an African saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child. However, this did not mean the digital village, with cell phone, Internet, social media and the constant courting of attention from the digitally networked community or even the tablet as a babysitter, but the common village. One made up of flesh and blood people, where people are in direct contact with each other.

Bridges of the future

A village where there are many people, uncles, aunts, siblings, friends, grandparents, the extended family … A community that supports and carries each other, a village community with many hands. So the good old, glorified time, in which certainly not everything was as homely as we imagine it. Dreams are dreams. – Most people don’t even want to live in a village anymore, which is also full of social control and where everything is done the way it has always been done. It is the global village with its multiple technological bridges, social achievements and individual freedoms that takes us out of confines, creates people connections around the world and easily and loosely fills us with information that was hard to come by just a few years ago. And sometimes also quite expensive were.

Creates networking also connection?

On the net we find allies, like-minded people, yes, many today even the woman or man for life for every situation in life in work and everyday life, Yippie! There are forums and magazines and endless interest groups. A lot of explanatory videos, a lot of creative ideas and a seemingly endless inspiration," said Philipp. But there’s also a lot of help, there’s no denying that. Scapegoating the smartphone in general, or the addictive potential of digital media use in particular, doesn’t do it justice. Yes, it’s true, we are constantly looking at our cell phones, starting when we wake up in the morning. Studies have shown that we look at it about 50 times a day. On average, we get distracted by life every 20 minutes to read texts, play a game, check WhatsApp messages, answer them, check the headlines, write to Schatzi, maybe take a picture and post it right away: Twitter, Facebook, to the family chat, the yoga class, the mommy groupMami group, the dad club …, and grandma is sent pictures of the grandkids every day.

The possibilities are almost unlimited. The possibilities of technology, suggesting to you that we are all intimately connected. And therein lies the crux. Networking, after all, does not automatically create connection, certainly not entering into an intimate relationship with other people, shaping them in all their vulnerability located between heaven and earth. The smartphone, with all its possibilities (let’s just stick with this one for simplicity’s sake), provides great relief and super services through the technical possibilities it offers. With our little technical marvel between our hands, we can easily connect to different net communities with just a few clicks, but this does not solve the actual problem, namely the increasing isolation in the analog world. The opposite is the case.


Listen to your loved ones

Communication plays an important role, especially in relationships with hearing impaired people. Read more about the impact of hearing loss:

Linguistic landscapes

Now there are net evangelists who talk about the fact that we should no longer distinguish between analog and digital worlds, that it will only take a few more years until we can no longer imagine such a thing as an "analog world". – Or artists would be needed to convey to us what it used to be like, "the analog". It is suggested to us that technology is everything – and communication has to be subordinated to it. But far from it! To be clear, every development of life and every functioning community is based on communication and encounter. And not on technology, which, by the way, can fail. On further consideration, every form of communication contains the possibility of bridge-building, of connection, or of isolation, thus of wall-building. In other words, my ability to communicate determines how I can relate to other people. And how I perceive and shape the world through my linguistic landscape.

Humans are created as social beings and not for being alone. The essence of our communication is based on hearing, because the ear is our most social organ. People who struggle with hearing loss know very well what it means not to belong. Not to be able to participate in the bridge of belonging called "hearing and understanding". Every communication and encounter between at least two people is always connected with language and speech. Yet the perception of signals is vital, our culture and education is essentially oriented towards hearing. Speech is more than information, it creates relationship and mood, and therefore connection.

Two sides of the same coin

The often unquestioned or rudimentary use of technology as networking, and connection as communication creates a vacuum that affects everyone sooner or later. One reason why a lifestyle issue like "digital detox" is becoming more and more important for many people. Also because we want to escape "multitasking", another myth, and "arrive completely at ourselves". Wanting to have "time for yourself" again, without living "under the control of others.

Now it makes a difference whether you want to have your well-deserved rest, realign yourself in your world and in the relationships that are considered important, and switch off your cell phone for a few days to do so and simply not be reachable. Or, as a hearing impaired person, one is in a life situation where these questions do not arise in this way. Or better: Different. Because the vacuum in which people with hearing impairment live is not a simple vacuum, but a double vacuum. Whether analog or digital – people with hearing impairment face a much greater isolation than people with normal hearing can even imagine. And those who talk about "digital detox" in front of a hearing impaired person have not yet realized that the cell phone with messenger functions such as WhatsApp or Telegram, or a plain SMS is the preferred means of communication of people with hearing impairment. Here again the truism is true that there are always two sides of the coin. The one of hearing impaired people is seldom considered, we are still far away from inclusion in bridge building understanding.

Cell phone wall

"The more we connect, the less we connect." © Ogilvy (for the Center For Psychological Research, Shenyang)

Barrier-free to the power of 2

Hearing impaired people already have the problem that the "invisible" hearing loss can not be understood by "hearing" people as a limitation, as a wall. They are much more stigmatized as blind people, as "slow on the uptake", "stupid", "less attractive" etc. denotes. At least in the European area. In the USA, this is handled differently, better. Also, because sign language is already taught in the high schools there. But even then the feeling of isolation is not absent. The feeling of not belonging often accompanies you throughout your life.

That’s why it’s so important to work towards breaking down barriers that hinder communication. This includes targeted methods in communication such as z.B. Learning basic sign language, speaking clearly to the hearing impaired, especially speaking slowly and very articulately. Very important are electronic hearing aids for profoundly hearing impaired people. Through the technical bridge of a cochlear implant, hearing ability can be restored to varying degrees – and with it, participation in social life such as work (!) can be significantly improved. Here, in the truest sense of the word, a functioning connection (hearing) to social life is made possible through networking (implant technology).

The Austrian Hearing Impairment Self-Help, oSSH, has worked out in a clear overview, how the situation of hearing impaired people is, which "series of physical, mental and social consequences" this can bring with it. This includes sleep and concentration disorders, anxiety, insecurities and even depression. Likewise, reduced performance due to fluctuating self-esteem, fear of further hearing and speech loss, and permanent exposure to discrimination, to name just a few characteristics.

Building bridges together

All this does not have to be, respectively these aggravating life challenges can be countered with measures. Measures that make sense and are as well coordinated as possible. Measures that aim to tear down walls as well as partitions and break down barriers. Finally, the need for communication that is as conflict-free, appreciative, and successful as possible is part of a person’s fundamental right. Ergo are humans the most important link in this connecting chain: And humans, who understand, in which situation one is as a hearing-impaired person. Only then comes the technology. And then it can be said: "Those who connect properly are well connected. Come on honey, let’s build bridges!"

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