Have we lost the art of conversation?

I HAVE been wondering this week if we as a nation are becoming less friendly or more gregarious.

Two conflicting reports got me thinking, and the conclusion was that they can’t both be right.

One piece of research found that we are suffering from widespread loneliness, with social networking sites such as Facebook forcing us to communicate by computer rather than face to face.

As someone who much prefers using the telephone (calling people, not texting) to going on Facebook, I must admit that that all this virtual communicating is a bit of a mystery to me.

I learn that the average Facebook user has 130 so-called friends online who they can be in contact with on a regular basis. The information they pass between each other can be fascinating. I believe a favourite item is telling others when you have just woken up, and what you are about to have for tea. It is must-know stuff.

But there are many who do not want to be so closely associated with their computer monitors.

Three-quarters of Brits believe that we have become less friendly and that the nation has lost the art of conversation, the research reveals.

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And a massive 82 per cent of us are crying out to spend more face time with the people we care about. But 68 per cent of us can worryingly go for several months without seeing one of our closest friends in person.

Over a quarter of the nation is described as “best friendless” whatever that means.

How can this trend be reversed before it is too late? The researchers have come up with a solution. They advise people to forget about going to busy restaurants, bars and clubs to meet up with old friends and make new ones. Their answer is: organise supper clubs. I can’t see that taking off.

Much more positive is the other piece of research which claims that community spirit is still going strong around the UK.

Almost half the population do something to get involved in their local community and demonstrate loyalty to the place they live. This can be anything from volunteering for local charities to joining in local politics.

This may be partly explained by the fact that a third of adults still live in the town where they grew up, and nearly two-thirds live within 50 miles of their childhood home.

Not surprising were some of the results of a survey conducted on behalf of a company which makes shaving equipment.

This found that there is a new breed of well mannered, impeccably groomed young men (aged 25 to 34) in our midst who are a world away from the stereotypical reckless and irresponsible “British blokes”.

These chivalrous gents are returning to the golden age of their grandfathers in terms of traditional dress, manners and shaving etiquette.

More than a quarter of those questioned felt that among the best definitions of masculinity was a “clean shaven man”.

As someone who has had a beard on my face since I was 23, you will forgive me if I disagree with the last statement.