Are people becoming more talkative during the pandemic?

July 28, 2020 • 8:15 am

I’ve noticed in the last couple of months that people I talk to, either over the phone or in person, seem to have become much more loquacious, to the point where  it seems that 90% or more of the conversational airtime is taken up by one person’s words. (To be sure, I’m often laconic.) Now I haven’t quantified this, though I could do so, at least over the phone with a stopwatch. But subjectively, it seems to me a real temporal change.

The first thing to determine is whether the subjective change is an objective change. To determine that, I would have to have timed participation in conversations over the last year or so, and compared the conversational “pie” before and after lockdown. And I don’t have that data. 

In the absence of hard data, it’s possible that I’ve simply become more peevish and impatient, so that it only seems that people are monopolizing conversations more. And indeed, I think I have become more peevish, though I think many people have changed in this way as well.

But let’s assume it’s real: that the proportion of conversational time in a two-person chat has become more unequal since March.  If that’s the case, why?

The only explanation I can imagine is that people who are more socially isolated have become more eager to talk, and that’s manifested in a higher degree of conversational dominance. Of course if two such chatty people meet, it could be a festival of interruptions and “talking over,” but I tend to become monosyllabic, and this is exacerbated when I am peevish.  My philosophy has always been that in a conversation, you learn nothing by talking but only by listening.

At any rate, am I imagining this or have others noticed it?

35 thoughts on “Are people becoming more talkative during the pandemic?

  1. Yeah, I definitely agree. I think people are happy to have another human to talk to after being trapped at home forever.

    I am on the extreme end of introversion… I once read that this is an adaptation to avoid illness. Whether that is true or hogwash I have no idea, but a part of me jokingly likes to think “Yes! Come on genes! An actual pandemic, that thing we evolved weirdly antisocial tendencies for all those years ago! Do your thing DNA, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for!”.

    1. I tell the extroverted that it is my world now. I have to admit to having low tolerance for their complaining when they laughed at us all these years as they forced us into open concept offices and got in our faces all the time.

      1. I gotta say, even after five months of varying levels of ‘quarantine’ (in the pop culture, not the technical, sense of the word,) I still want to duck out on the once-a-month work Zoom Happy Hour. Like “Come on guys, it’s only been five months! You social butterflies are overwhelming me! Let’s meet up at the turn of the next century.”

  2. I don’t know but one trivial explanation is simply that there’s a lot more to talk about now than ever. That would be – I guess – sort of … hard to discriminate from pandemic induced loquaciousness because the pandemic itself is the big event that is producing the loquaciousness in the first place…

    So if it was, I guess, peaceful aliens bringing unlimited energy to us for free, that’d also produce loquaciousness of the same proportion – within a magnitude or so – as a pandemic.

    …. I need breakfast now…..

  3. I dunno. Everyone seems annoyed and angry and passive aggressive toward me lately and I don’t think I’ve changed at all and often struggle without even saying anything.

  4. “My philosophy has always been that in a conversation, you learn nothing by talking but only by listening.”

    Evidence for this:

    “On foreign affairs who do you consult with?”
    “Well I mostly consult with myself to be honest with you. I have a very good brain.”

  5. I don’t know. I deal with quite severe social anxiety so I have always tried avoiding public conversation with strangers. When I do talk, I will gush or ramble, then feel stupid for hours afterwards for fear I said something wrong (even before cancel culture). So I haven’t noticed any change but that could just be me. Maybe people are now getting a taste of my life experience over the last 40-ish years and are struggling with understanding the new social rules (I still don’t understand the old ones) and the isolation has messed with their inner social controls. I dunno.

    1. I get excited to see my work friends when I have been isolated from them and I get wound up. I find now though that everyone I want to talk to is a keyboard away instead of trying to schlepp myself across to some far away building on campus so I don’t really feel all that isolated. It’s so much easier to schedule meetings this way and I think collaboration is better because we are so distributed.

      1. I am certainly happier to send a text or email to someone than to meet in person. I despise having to actually call someone (always worried I’m interrupting) and a hate zoom with a passion. It feels like a violation of my personal space to have someone see inside my house and even using a background feels odd. I still feel as uncomfortable as being in person, like being forced to make eye contact with someone for long periods. But even as anxious and awkward as I am, I miss seeing the kids I work with in person. I can’t do my job online. It just doesn’t work well and they struggle with technology. But I’m quite happy avoiding traffic especially and most of my coworkers, excepting one I was kinda sweet on but being my weird self it doesn’t matter because I can’t take the next step, virus or not. But it doesn’t matter how I feel anyway, we’re all at the mercy of the virus vs society and what happens or doesn’t and how it happens or doesn’t will not be up to me or my weird brain but I’m in no hurry to get back to being in person any more than I look forward to the next zoom meeting. Damned if you do and all that.

          1. See above comment “gush or ramble”……

            I agree entirely with C’s points. My main problem with lockdown is that I haven’t been able to self-isolate as much as I would like. To much Zoom and Teams. And Jitsi and Whereby and……

  6. Isn’t it simply that people are saying more over the phone, Zoom, etc. than in person? In other words, the total amount of conversation isn’t going up but the amount you are having using electronic means is increasing and that is something you are noticing. In fact, the total amount of conversation has likely gone down during the pandemic even though the amount of electronic conversation has increased.

    1. “the total amount of conversation has likely gone down during the pandemic even though the amount of electronic conversation has increased.”

      Ah I think that’s right – all the unrestricted conversation- meetings, coffee houses, busses, everything- suddenly reduced to a tiny screen. Not everything gets converted to “virtual” – we tune in, only to exclude everything else, and notice a change….

    2. As I said, it’s not the total amount of conversation that seems to be increasing, but the proportion of each conversation that I take part in that is increasingly ascribed to only one person.

  7. I agree that people are finding a need to talk with someone, and so talk more when we get together. I notice it more in others, of course, but I can do it too. As a serious introvert, I seem to express the change more by writing more in on-line forums — er, fora. I even find myself searching for a post that I can reasonably comment on.

    Coincidentally, a Dear Amy advice column in our Oregonlive on-line news paper today had a letter from a person very isolated right now, who finds herself narrating her life out loud and wondering if she’s going crazy. (No, Amy assured her, you’re finding a good way to cope with the solitude and keep sane.)

    1. As a kid, I spent long stretches of time alone as my parents both worked and in the summer I couldn’t really play with other kids because where we lived physically isolated me from them. I talked to myself all the time & still do. I think I also got very used to isolation.

  8. I go to a dog park and it seems to be the only place that some people get human interaction. People who used to walk their dog quickly now linger for an hour or two. I have not seen people try to dominate the conversation.

    The regulars generally are nice but seem to border on depression. Sometimes people have a bad day due to some new Covid restriction or whatever and go on rants but the next day they will return to polite acceptance of the situation.

  9. When the pandemic and lock-down began in April, I spent a lot of time on the phone talking with people I hadn’t spoken to for a while. I didn’t notice anyone dominating the conversation though…if anyone did, it would probably have been me. Now I don’t talk to people nearly as much…don’t know why. There’s a lot to talk about as far as the pandemic and politics, but as of late there has been nothing novel in my life. I guess that’s why I don’t call people much at this time…nothing really “new” to say.

    1. Haha. I often interrupt and such because my brain can’t remember anything and I have to get it out while the memory is fresh or I can’t hear and need to interrupt or I will have to ask you to restart the whole thing all over again. I’ve had people yell DON’T INTERRUPT ME! Simply when I’ve interrupted to ask for clarification. I think these people are egomaniacs.

      But if we don’t notice interruptions maybe it’s us. 😀

  10. Funny you should say that, Jerry! I was minding my own business, tending to my plants in my garden, when I overheard a dog-walker chatting off the ears of my neighbour across the street. I kept listening behind my fence (I really couldn’t heard exactly what was being said) to hear if and when she took a breath. This went on for a few minutes, and my neighbour said nary a word.

    I think some people are not coping well with the pandemic and are acting out their pent-up anxiety or feelings of isolation. In a nutshell, they just need to let it all out and feel better afterwards. That’s OK, I figure. And then there are those for whom all the world’s a stage and they just love their own voice. I know quite a few people like that! 🙂

    1. I have been wondering how the many pooches are feeling, as they don’t get the customary fusses from random people while on their walks. In fact, this neighbour I just mentioned, her little d*ggie has been going even more nuts at the other d*gs as they go by.

  11. Maybe, I have seen evidence of that. Moreso though I’ve noticed people – particularly lockdown citizens like us NYers, they’ve become more tetchy, more prickly, easier to take offense.

    Oh and much fatter (the “Covid 20”?)
    And more alcoholic…. WAAAY more alcoholic.
    My data for that is the recycling bins in my apartment building of 200 apartments.
    I’m fine though! 🙂

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