According to new scientific data, there has been a significant rise in the ratio of inane small talk in proportion to everyday conversation, with the head researcher suggesting that this is due to an increased degree of fear of causing offence or confrontation.
The Department of Social Science [DOSS] at the University of Swindon published data accrued by a six month grant research project headed by researcher Tabitha Carridgrash earlier this week, and Carridgrash told The Daily Belter that she feels the data validates her hypothesis that “everybody is so scared of saying the wrong thing that they take refuge in mundanity”.
The project began in January of this year and concluded in June, with various social venues throughout Swindon and the University campus bugged by listening equipment and cameras secreted within porcelain busts of popular colonialists.
Carridgrash provided data demonstrating a sharp convergence of a fearful social climate and attention deficits brought on by heavily media-saturated early socialisation, thus meaning that “people need to talk constantly but are afraid of saying anything meaningful or radical”.
Excerpts of the study show that the most popular conversational tidbit was a derivative of “so you’re [insert activity being conducted] then?”, followed closely by non-committal enquiries and requisite answers regarding the welfare of the person being spoken to and the initial speaker, with slight variations on “have you seen the news? Pretty crazy, isn’t it?” coming in at a close third.
By contrast, the likelihood of a person engaging in a conversation related to a topic not present on the research team’s ‘inane small talk’ checklist was only 2.9%, a significant drop from the 11% shown by a similar study last year, and Carridgrash explained that when this did occur, there was a 75% chance the discussion would become stilted and audibly uncomfortable.
Carridgrash said: “We have a situation where people entering into a conversation don’t want to reveal any opinions they hold, because they’re afraid of being castigated for them, but at the same time they’re afraid of being offended by such an opinion from someone else, and are thus resistant to the idea of a mutual exchange of ideas, so they just talk tripe.”
This assessment is backed by social sciences professor Dr. Ruth Ladle, who concurred with the conclusions of the DOSS report and added: “People are social creatures, but because everybody and everything is so politicised, conversation has become something of a minefield, despite being an essential part of sociability – the irony is that it has caused conversation to be an offensively boring pastime.”
Ladle cited the recent terrorist attack in Nice by so-called Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhled, a spate of shootings in the USA and social media witch hunts as further heightening a shared sense of fear over being attacked for a belief, opinion or thought, or of being hurt by such a comment made by the other person.
One research participant interviewed in the DOSS report, entitled ‘How conversations got too scared to be wack: An in-depth analysis of everyday talk’, admitted that he was afraid to call his mother a “strong woman” as he wasn’t sure whether such engendered language would cause offence, while another said they didn’t want to talk about their therapist in case the candlestick maker they were engaging with was upset by references to sexual assault.
Reliance on inoffensive topics of conversation has, according to Carridgrash, directly resulted in the increased popularity of vapid interests and talking points, such as “whether Darth Vader is in the new Star Wars movie” or Pokemon Go.
She added: “As long as we are more afraid of causing a stir or being challenged that we are eager for a good and interesting chat, we will continue to regress into a sort of banal morass of meaningless words and redundant questions as we talk endlessly without saying a thing.
“It’ll be like living in an episode of Question Time, only without the comedy panellist or hostile questions from cranky audience members.”