The Perils of E-Communication

Wine is a great conversation starter…

Something wee bit serious today…

For some time I’ve been meaning to write about e-communication and how deceptive it can be. Thanks to turistka I’ve finally got around doing it.

Take blogs, for example. Some people use blogs to express themselves – or so we think. A sort of a public diary, a personal blog can offer a great insight into some people’s thoughts, lives, feelings, etc… The trick, of course, is that the insight is not complete and unfethered, but is rather only a partial – censored, if you will – image of a particular blogger. Even more, it can be completely deceiving.

A particular blogger chooses (thus in effect censors) information he/she shares with the outside world. Even if the information is varied in nature and content it still seldomly paints a true picture of a person. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and blogs fail to present the wholeness in its… well… wholesomness.

And while blogs do offer some sort of a medium for a meaningful debate (at least in theory), chats are even more perilous. Chatting by its very name implies the lack of any serious and meaningful conversation and is usually limited to short sentences and replies. The fact that a chat almost always ends up on the subject of sex might be just my trait, so I won’t dwell on that.

Almost the same goes for text-messaging (SMSing, as it is known in Slovenia). Limited to 160 or 320 charaters, one is limited to writing down basic information and squeeze in a smiley or two.

E-mails on the other hand offer a way too conveinent medium of presenting oneself in a far better and complex way than he/she might actually be. As the conversation is not “live”, both the author of a starting mail and the respondee have more than enough time to think over the contents of the mail, to “brush it up” and make it (and to make themselves) look better than in real life.

Talking over a phone is in my opinion slightly better. In addition to the actual conversation being conducted “live”, one can also hear the voice of the other party – enabling us to roughly discern the mood and nature of the person on the other side. Also, a slight tremble in the voice of a person who usually speaks loudly and clearly will more often than not indicate that something unusual has happened.

But even a conversation over a phone lacks one true ingredient of any conversation: non-verbal communication. The manner of the person, the way he/she behaves during conversation will tell you at least as much of him/her as the contents of his/her speech, enabling you to have as much clearer image of who you are actually talking to.

Now, I’m not saying that the above is true in every case and of every communication (especially if the two parties know each other), but to put it in scientific terms:

Any non-personal form of communication is subject to greater interference by outside factors and the probabitly that the receiver will interpret the message differently than the sender meant it is much higher than during a personal communication session.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t e-communicate, just that we should keep the above in mind. As for me: I love all forms of communication, but I’ll take a glass of wine and someone nice to talk to any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

34 thoughts on “The Perils of E-Communication”

  1. Well written.:-)
    Three things occurred to me while reading that I’d like to share:
    1. I actually do not think I know the person I met through her/his blog I’ve been reading regularly. So any comment dealing with that person can only refer to the virtual persona and no (well, almost no) assumptions are made about the real one. I used to have many penfriends and if I got to know them personally I always expected someone I don’t know beforehand. It always turned out to be the right thing to do. 🙂 It is of course not that I am that worldly-wise. It is only that I filter the information about me very strongly, too. In my blog, in any other way, also on the phone. And I hate phoning because my kaputt voice may give the listeners the impression they are talking to a kaputt person. Which they aren’t 🙂
    2. You are of course absolutely right about written communication like mails containing only the most convenient parts of someone’s mind. But I say: everyone should have enough opportunities to squeeze themselves into this form enabling embellished utterances/presentation. The same as everyone should use the opportunity to write more formal pieces, to try out different sorts of writing. While it does not tell the whole truth about a person, it does enhance her/him or has the potential to.
    3. My guess is there are ways of dealing with e-interferences and e-misunderstandings and one can use them on the spot, to a certain degree. Everything else is a necessary part of this kind of communication and, gasp: I am agreeing again!, can be done away on a nice afternoon, with a glass of wine 🙂 On the other hand, communication between, say, partners, who see each other every day, needs explanatory maintenance work, too… 🙂
    (sorry for being overlong, I like the topic and I am sure many others do,too)

  2. Thanks! I added some links to the post, hope y’all don’t mind.

    And as always you provided some food for thought. I especially love the “explanatory maintainance” part 😀

  3. That doesn’t change anything in my opinion. Contents stayed the same. 😉

    About the topic… There’s a lot of additional planes to e-communication, one just needs to become aware of them. Then the gap between face-to-face and e-communication becomes much, much smaller (than the one I sensed in your lines), yet it will never disappear.

  4. Have you ever done any online chatting? I haven’t and I used to think what we are doing here is chatting and not commenting… but maybe it isn’t if chatting turns out to be rather shallow or purpose-oriented 😈

    Sunshine: yes, it all boils down to awareness, but people may want to realize parts of their personality online they cannot live in real life. So which of them is more real? 🙂 THings I talk about online or the life I am leading? None of them and both, I’d say.

  5. I started chatting almost a decade ago and never stopped. 😀 I just changed several programs for chatting in the meantime. 😉 And the nature of chatting is very different to the one of sequential commenting we have here. It’s richer and has even more fineness.

    I guess it depends how you perceive chatting. For me it’s not just a shallow conversation because I usually chat with people I cherish and know very well. And although chats about sex are an endless source of entertainment it is by far not a must to always end up on the subject of sex. After all this seems to happen also with commenting, so chat is definitely “no worse”. :mrgreen:

  6. OK, THX. Yes, of course. Chatting with people one likes/knows is of course similar to having conversation with them…

  7. Yes and no…. I think there is still a high probability that either of the two will missunderstand something, especially if the nature of the conversation is not mundane.

  8. Maybe I’m lucky or I have mind-reading abilities, but misunderstandings in e-communication definitely happen only as often as in f2f communication to me. So it might be true in general and only I don’t witness it in my conversations. 😳

  9. Mhm. One could say it all depends on how competent one is communicationally (how extrovert etc.)… Then there are things one would like to read between the lines, things one imagines to have read, things one has read because they fit their Weltanschauung and philosophy, thins we were taught to read… All kinds of abysses out there. But the awareness of such things does help, doesn’t it. And it helps if you know someone personally, to a certain degree. At least this person will know that you are saying things in a good hope they will understand them correctly…
    Which is more: I don’t know about you but I do not always understand my reactions completely, either. Why should other people be under obligation to understand them? 🙂
    And I think none of us wants to fit neatly into a chosen communicational set of drawers (seemingly) imposed on us every time we communicate, which does not make it easier for others, either. And as clever they are, they may have a bad moment, a moment of weakness and schwuppdipupp, they get things wrong…

    But I didn’t want to bore you with things you all know about, too…

  10. Sunshine: I think you are simply very clever and (communication-) wise. That is all. 🙂 No mind-reading there, then. 🙂

  11. @ alcessa: Phew, I was afraid I’m a freak. 😀 Thank you for the compliment. :*

    But seriously… The other day we were doing tests at work to determine which perceptive type we are. VAKOG model determines five types: vizualni (eyes), auditivni (ears), kinestetični (movements), olfaktorni (nose), gustatorni (taste). People are mostly visual types but I’m distinctively auditive. That explained many things to me…

  12. Wine, Kasteelbier… Make up your mind, P. You’ve got three weeks left. 😀 But a conversation will take place, I’m sure. 😉

  13. You’re talking about me again?! Stop already! There’s many other far worse bloggers to talk about! 😉

  14. Slightly off topic, but another peril of any sort of online communication: spilling that glass of wine on your keyboard.

  15. @nimfa: I wasn’t talking about you as a bad example (was I ever? 😮 ) I was just trying to show that there are different kinds of blogs out there – yours being a shining example of one 🙂

    @pirano: Indeed! 😀 The danger in this case, however, being much more to the wine itself than to the keyboard. A keyboard can alway be replaced, the wine, however, is lost permanently, no? 😀

  16. Yes, much better to spill it on your date! Makes a great impression.

    OK Pengovsky, I promise, next time I’m up your way we WILL get together in person.

  17. There is nothing bad to say about me. Nothing at all! 😛 And there are different kinds of people out there – this might explain different blogs too. 😉

    And I always like to shine. 😀

  18. I won’t, killing is NOT good for karma. 😉

    As far as the clowns go – there was just one and I don’t want to think about where it is now. Again, not good for karma.

    But don’t worry – something bad always happens to people who make fun of me. Don’t know why and don’t really care. Mainly because it’s not my problem anymore. 😛

  19. Oops, Nimfa, could you take that curse away from me please? Because something bad always happens to me when I make fun of me and that is more bad than I can take … 😈

  20. It seems you are well liked, miss nymphee 😀
    So, will you? Common, it is easy, repeat: hexate pexate (or whatever it is that you have to say to lift the curse) 3 times… 😀

  21. You know what bothers me the most. We are so great in theory, my god, how we analyze everything(including me),look how you’ve defined e-comunication, but when we come to realization of our minds and thoughts, we freeze. We need’tactic planer to decide wether(i might spelled it wrong:)) we have time to meet one, or not, For one cup of coffee i have to make arrangements at least 3 days before, not to mention anything bigger.. It’s awfull… we write e-mails with my best friend, who lives 3 minutes walk away so we keep updated..we even don’t have time to make a phone call.awfull, but that’s the way it is, so we have to be “thankfull” we have at least blogs, mails and msn…otherways I’m affraid we’d lose touch with all but co-workers..

  22. Burja: and I thought I was the only one… keeping friends and relatives at the other end of the wire… 🙂

  23. For a walk around Fužine it takes much less to make an arrangement. But unfortunately, that’s about the only thing done ad-hoc. 🙁 Nope… I remembered another one… a friend in need on the phone, asking for some help. Then I need no more than 10 minutes to be on my way. 😉

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