March Hare: […] Then you should say what you mean.I think that quote's kind of a tangent, but over the last few days I've been thinking about words ... and communicating ... and saying what I mean ... and how hard it is to say what I mean and mean what I say when I communicate on paper or on the screen.
Alice: I do; at least -- at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know.
Hatter: Not the same thing a bit! Why, you might just as well say that, 'I see what I eat' is the same as 'I eat what I see'!
Here's a tally of the written or online mediums I use to communicate every day: the non-face-to-face communications.
- I send anywhere from 5-15 emails a day
- I write about 4 blog posts a week
- I comment on anywhere from 0-10 blogs a day
- I tweet maybe once a day, and have random twitter conversations maybe once a week
- I used to talk to people on Facebook until I deactivated my account
- I send at least 20 texts a day, sometimes more
- I used to post on AW fairly frequently ... but now I don't
- It's impossible to read emotions. Emoticons aside, there's only so much emotion you can force into block text.
- It's so easy to misread -- or read the wrong emotions into -- text. Like, if someone sends you a short-ish email that sounds kind of abrupt, but maybe not really, you have no idea if they're busy, angry, or ... who knows.
- It's easy to say the wrong thing, convey the wrong message, tell the wrong joke. I used to see that all the time on AW: someone would throw something out that might be funny in real life, but just causes problems on the threads.
When we talk face-to-face, we use all sorts of cues to draw a meaning out of the messages we receive: tone of voice, volume, speed, posture, body language, eye contact, physical contact. We interact in context with each other: same day, place, time.
But when we communicate through [insert online medium here], all those helpers disappear. We only have words. That can be ... dangerous.
So. What do you think? What are guidelines for the delicate exchange of online communication? Does it even matter, or am I just a rambling ex-COM minor? How can we overcome the barriers of plain text to communicate well? And how do we avoid sending that unintentionally messy email that goes over like a lead balloon?
PS: Anna, my agent sister, is hosting a super cool contest (aka prizes are either LINGER or MOCKINGJAY), so you should go enter.