Despite my earnest efforts not to do so, I often find that while communicating via e-mail or by comments on social media, I often go too far in what I say.
In retrospect I find that when I communicate via-keyboard I am far more willing to cross lines which I would never cross in person.
Most people are keenly aware of how anonymity online allows people to say and do truly horrendous things. If I look at myself, I can see that I do not have the same awareness considering my own postings and writings.
While it is true that I don’t go out looking to troll or to harass people who disagree with me, I do not spam hate mail or vicious comments, I do lose a true awareness of how what I write effects others.
When we are messaging someone we are familiar with, we know the anonymity is gone, even still, the absence of seeing a human being with facial expressions, mannerisms, and the like, seems to disengage an important part of our internal radar and filter.
I have noticed that I tend to argue far more bluntly online, than in person.
I am far less cautious with my words, which is the exact opposite of what should be the case.
If we think about it, when communicating online we should be all the more careful with what we say because we have none of the other important indicators of how the other person is feeling, or what they are experiencing.
We cannot tell if someone is near tears by the text of their response; we cannot tell if they are furious but bottling it up; we cannot see the subtle but important cues that inform us that “this is too much, please stop!”
It is well known that a large percentage of our communication occurs entirely non-verbally. Aside from the choice of vocabulary, all these vital tells are missing. In written correspondence we only obtain the physical words, the message coming from the other, but not the unspoken and often more valuable information.
This is all too apparent when trying to use something like sarcasm in text messages, and the person receiving the text only reads a blunt statement, and does not get the humour.
In comparison to when I am with someone face to face, when I am reacting in writing I tend to focus whole heartedly on the ideas of their comment. I go after these ideas with great intensity, but quickly forget that their will be a loved one with an entirely different emotional and spiritual life than mine at the other end.
Ironically, this forgetfulness makes our arguments less effective because we end up offending instead of endearing. We turn the other onto the defensive, and thus closed to our point or ideas.
When we speak harsh words in person we see immediately how they change. Their facial expressions, their demeanor, their willingness to engage in more conversation are all important indications of how our message is taking effect.
These are powerful reminders that our words carry a visceral potential to either harm or to uplift: reminders which are often missing during online conversations.
Online communication has brought about an age of unprecedented connection.
What is interesting is we seldom consider the consequences of this intensified connection.
We are influencing each other with a far greater frequency than before.
It seems to me that it is all the more important now days to be aware of the shortcomings of this burgeoning type of communication so as to use it all the more effectively.
At the end of the day, communication should not be just a means to obtain what I want, what I need, what I desire, but also to fulfill the desires, preferences, and needs of those we communicate with.