“Listening, a virtue to cultivate”

“Listening, a virtue to cultivate”

In your book, you talk about “the society of venting”, in which true listening is not valued. How has the emergence of social networks damaged it?

The mechanics of networks – based on the attention economy – favor divisive comments and therefore contribute to the hardening of public debate. The networks encourage everyone to freeze in a posture and nuanced words are less audible than words of indignation, anger or hatred. This rise in online violence is contaminating other social spheres. With the dangers that this implies. In The Chaos Engineers, writer Giuliano da Empoli shows to what extent it is possible to exploit social networks for the benefit of disinformation and the manipulation of opinions. This type of exploitation amplifies the fractures within society.

A society where more and more of us want to cut everything off so as not to listen to anything at all!

I hear this growing information fatigue. And faced with the waves of content that overwhelm us, the radio medium has great virtues. By taking us away from the all-screen, it allows listeners to concentrate on understanding the news and distance themselves from emotion. In the treatment of acts of violence in particular, radio establishes a more peaceful and distanced relationship with information than seeing images.

You devote a few pages to the presence of the word “listen” in Jewish and Christian traditions. For what ?

This is obvious in matters of religious culture: listening to the word has forged our understanding of the world since the transmission of monotheistic traditions took place orally. The word “listen” is used 265 times in the Bible. The prayer “Shema Israel” – taken from Deuteronomy – is listened to with your eyes closed, as when Moses received the word of God by putting his hand in front of his face so as not to look at it. In Hebrew, listen can mean alternately to hear, to obey or to learn. Like an active force, listening is at the center of the believer’s life because it is a means of transforming oneself. It promotes self-control, understanding, empathy and the ability to develop connections.

Knowing how to listen also means knowing how to develop critical thinking…

Listening allows you to acquire useful skills throughout life. Scientific studies, carried out in particular by researcher Olivier Houdé, show the extent to which listening mobilizes areas of the brain linked to the faculties of abstraction, reflection, concentration and attention. In listening, we create our mental images rather than submitting to images generated by others.

Why is it so essential to develop listening skills among younger generations?

Overstimulated by the consumption of images that solicit emotion more than reflection, children have listening potential to develop through audio content, powerful tools for cultivating imagination, concentration and attention. For example, studies carried out by neuropsychologist Stanislas Dehaene show how listening facilitates learning to read. Cultivating listening promotes the education of future citizens who are enlightened and open to the diversity of points of view.

Does the development of listening represent a political issue?

Creating something common has always been the main contribution of traditional media to society, as well as their main future challenge. As the German philosopher-sociologist Hartmut Rosa wrote, building a listening society is essential to regain understanding and trust within the social body. At a time when disinformation is rampant and will be facilitated by the tools of artificial intelligence, continuing to share a common reality seems to me essential to the functioning of democracy. This is at the heart of the missions of a public service media like Radio France.

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