Communication—Do You Get My Meaning?

Ever find yourself wondering what we’d do without the Internet in our lives? We only have to wait for a power outage to find out. The moment we cannot boot up the computer we become bored and restless. Okay, even panicky. Granted, that doesn’t mean we spend all of our waking moments online. Some of us, myself included, just hop online for a few moments to see that’s going on in cyberspace. I often joke that if I didn’t see it on Facebook it didn’t happen. But seriously, for most of us, there is life beyond cyberspace.

We’ve entered into a whole new realm of communicating and there is no going back. We correspond through email, twitter, and our blogs. We get to *know* many people whom we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet– –people from other countries, other provinces, other states—-without leaving the comforts of our own homes. How truly amazing!

However, it makes me wonder if we are not becoming a society that it totally dependent upon electronic communications.

This post reminds of that little joke that went something like this.

Q: Whatever happened to the art of conversation?

A: I don’t know. No one ever talks about it anymore.

But we are *talking* you might argue, we’re just not doing it face to face.

You have to admit in some ways the Internet has made it much simpler for us to express ourselves, and self-expression is very important. But, have you ever found yourself sharing some bit of information online only to realize that it’s not necessarily something you would have dared to share with your friends and family in the *real* world? Perhaps you’ve read a friend’s FB status and cringed because it just felt like  “too much information.”

How brave it can makes us feel when we simply have to hit a button and send our words on their way. There’s no one standing there to make us accountable. We don’t have to see the hurt feeling we’ve caused. Nor do we get to experience the joy and delight our words might have brought.

But communication is more than just words.

Communication is not just a group of words all strung together. It is as much a part of speaking the words as it is listening. We pick up on the tones and rhythms in each other’s voices as we speak. We watch for that gleam in eye or look of amusement, anger or even confusion. By watching and listening we pick up on each other’s emotions on a non-verbal level, and it puts us in a better place of understanding what is really being said.

I sometimes find it more challenging to communicate online. I sometimes wonder if the meaning behind my words is fully grasped. Who out there has sent a message, written a blog post, or tweeted something, then wondered if their words might have been misunderstood because you couldn’t communicate the tone in which the remark was intended? I know I certainly have. And how many of us have been on the other end of that, wondering just what was meant by a certain comment. Was it truly said in jest? Were their snotty undertones? Was the entire meaning lost along the way?

A friend once admitted to me that she’s made snotty comments, and then hid behind that little smiley face at then end. Be honest, sometimes it is tempting. Isn’t it?  :)

Although I am grateful for this wonderful means of communicating online, and certainly wouldn’t want to abandon it, I still feel a need to communicate face to face, or by telephone, from time to time. I need to hear the laughter in someone’s voice and be able to tell at a glance just what their day’s been like.I need to see their face light up.. But that’s just me.

So how about you, do you prefer communicating online rather than in person? And does being online give you the courage to fully express yourself in ways you never dreamed you would?

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12 Comments

  1. Judi Hiltz

     /  June 26, 2010

    I hear you!! I remember writing something on FB about someone being on the computer all the time, and was taken the wrong way. If I would have said it in person they would have gotten a different meaning.
    I, also, find that I can write things that I most likely wouldn’t say inperson. But I can find I can express myself better here than inperson. You can sit here and write things and if you read them again, and they don’t sound just right or they came out wrong, you can change them, whereas face to face, if you say something, it’s said and you have more trouble going back and deleting them. But than again, I’m always saying or writing things wrong, that’s just me.

    Reply
    • I’m sure we’re all guilty of not properly communicating what are true intentions were from time to time. You’re right, though by communicating our thoughts in writing we do have the opportunity to change things later on if we choose to. I’ve actually seen that myself, when the writer of a certain post perhaps realized that their comment or post could be misinterpreted and went back and made changes. I think I’ve done that a time or two myself, to be honest.

      Oh and nobody says or writes the wrong thing all the time. That’s impossible..Gee, I guess that makes you wrong again..LOL!

      Reply
  2. I’m not a great conversationalist… not as good in face-to-face and phone encounters as I am in writing. It’s not a false courage thing. I need time to think about what I want to say… time to find the right words to string together. I think I’m better at blogging because I take time to read and re-read those messages before finally posting.

    E-mail, text and FB messages can definitely be troublemakers for some people. It’s way too easy to rattle off a thought and hit “send”, putting fingers in motion before the brain is fully engaged.

    Reply
    • I guess I’ve liked to talk from the time I was quite young. I’m sure I got on my parent’s nerves from time to time. I actually like chatting it up, but I’m not one of those people who can talk to just anyone. I like for there to be a two way conversation going and not just me flapping my gums. I can talk to strangers but you’ve got to meet me half way.

      Writing, however, allows us certain freedoms. We might phrase our words differently or express ourselves in a way that we’d never do so in person. We might even be more honest, I’m not sure.

      Hitting *send* can be a dangerous thing if ,as you say, our brain is not fully engaged..I’ve heard many people warning about the dangers of facebooking or tweeting while under the influence. LOL

      Reply
  3. I do think some things have been lost through our frequent computer/Internet/IM/text variations of communications, but a lot has also been gained . . . I guess that’s often how it is with “progress.”

    Reply
    • As with any progress there are aspects that are lost along the way. It’s often full speed ahead with no turning back. I sometimes look back, Ev. I can’t help myself. But even with that said, I can’t imagine not having computers in our lives. I never would have met such wonderful people, and that has been a blessing. :)

      Reply
  4. How true your post is, Laura. I’ve often had the same thoughts as you on this very subject.

    I know I tend to rely on Facebook and email too much for my communication. I’ve never been a fan of the phone and am actually a bit shy with people until I get to know them. With the Internet, I feel braver and able to say something that I probably never would have said in person. I can make a comment on someone’s page but if I was in a room with them, it would be a different story, especially with other people there.

    I feel more comfortable in writing compared to talking in person where it’s all immediate and you don’t get much time to think of what to say.

    I do understand what you mean about missing out on other nuances of communication of body language, smiles, eye contact etc and that often leads to confusion and misunderstanding. I like to joke around and be sarcastic and I know sometimes people take me seriously, even if I put ;) or a smilie face.

    Despite the drawbacks, I do love the Internet and being able to befriend all these people whom I’d never have met otherwise. I feel less isolated than before.

    Reply
    • I can be shy around people depending upon their reaction to me. Usually I don’t have any problems, but I’ve run across a few people who were really difficult to warm up to.

      I do think many of us are braver with the Internet. As I mentioned, while I can chat it up one on one, I’m not very articulate, for instance, if I’m at a meeting. I’m usually the one sitting there not opening my mouth and hoping that I don’t get called upon to give my opinion.

      And yes I do agree, that despite the drawbacks communicating via the Internet, it does help us feel less isolated.

      Reply
  5. I think online interactions have the opportunity to force us to become better communicators. (Try sharing a coherent message in 140 characters or less and you’ll learn how to get your point across quickly.) On the other hand, some people have gotten mean, snarky and downright rude because there’s that buffer between them and the person they’re “talking” to.

    Personally, I love “talking” online and I love talking in person. (I loathe phone conversations, though.) The person you “see” on my blog, in my tweets and on Facebook is the real Leah. So I don’t get nervous about TMI (too much information) because if people can’t handle what I share online then they definitely couldn’t handle me in person — I’m even more open face-to-face. Yeah, I know, scary thought, huh?

    Great post!

    Reply
    • I’m hearing what you’re saying about us becoming better at communicating because of our online presence, and I do believe in some ways you’re absolutely right. Not as much beating around the bush. More direct. And yes, there is that risk to let our “eveil” side out to play. But I have to say I do thrive on a more personal level. That said, it seems that I have less and less personal encounters while my online presence appears to be growing.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong in being open. In fact, it’s kind of refreshing. I also think there are things that are best not discussed in public. I personally don’t need to learn about someone’s sexlife from FB (yes that happened!) and I’m betting the person likely wouldn’t have mentioned it had they ran into me at the grocery store. LOL!!!

      Reply
  6. Wow – Someone visited you from Thornton, Pennsylvania. That’s 10 minutes from my old home. I’m very direct – polite but direct. Prefer to use email as much as possible at work – saves time & I don’t have to listen to whining. In person, pretty laid back, generally quiet. Never hit the send button when you’re really aggravated. Take a breath – let the words settle.

    Reply
    • “Never hit the send button when you’re really aggravated.”

      This should be a warning that pops up on all emails and FB wall post’s as a gentle reminder. Then if you still hit the send button, well…..

      Email certainly speeds things up. But what I find, however, is that sometimes (myself included) if we don’t answer that email immediately we end up not responding in a timely fashion or at all. There’s nothing more frustrating than not receiving a response to a question or being acknowledged in some small way.

      Reply

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