Do you remember the last time you had a conversation on the phone? Or, better yet, a conversation with someone face-to-face?
I will admit that I usually rely on text and emails to communicate with others. To be honest, I like the easiness of responding when I can, multitasking while still keeping in touch with others, and thinking out my responses before I send them.
Yes. I try to be one of those people who (usually) thinks before she types.
Sadly, this is not the case for all of us. Sometimes it is all too easy to react quickly and send off a text or email, even to post a status on Facebook or tweet on Twitter, without considering how it may be read, who might be reading it, and what meaning may be interpreted through it. It’s all too simple to react before we think.
Let’s consider how easy it is to get lost in the translation of text, email, and social media statuses. These digital interactions, for all intents and purposes, have become a language of their own. When we communicate in some digital way, other than face-to-face or voice-to-voice, we miss out on vital verbal cues which help us to understand, process, and respond appropriately to what is being delivered to us. There is no body language to read, no smiles (or frowns) to acknowledge, and no human senses to clue us in to how the person communicating with us may be feeling or what their intended meanings might be. The text, email, status, or tweet’s interpretation may depend on the interpreter’s day, their emotional attitude, and even their own experiences and circumstances. When direct human contact is lacking, the message’s interpretation depends and relies on the receiver.
When we struggle to interpret the meaning of digital communication, it can be very easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions. We may “read into” a text thinking the sender is meaning one thing, when, perhaps, they have meant another. We may misread the meaning behind a simple comment, perhaps originally intended as a joke, and this may cause a lot of hurt and pain. Text messages and emails can be entirely subjective and open to interpretation causing the sender grief as well. Imagine this: a well-intentioned blogger is plugging away at a current post. The kids are fighting in the next room and supper should have been started an hour ago when she gets a text. She responds quickly with a simple “ok”. She is later questioned as to why she was ‘short’ with the texter and what is wrong. So, you see, a simple “ok” without the usual J or even a ‘lol’, can be interpreted as the blogger acting out of character.
It’s not always that simple, innocent, and easily explained. Sometimes texts, emails, and social media can be used to hurt others. True, sometimes the hurt occurs unintentionally, but other times text messages or emails are sent to intentionally “get to” others. Maybe it’s in self-defense, maybe we are simply standing up for ourselves, or maybe we truly need to make a point. Whatever the reason may be, digital communication also can be used as a weapon. Facebookers are “unfriended” or blocked and Twits find themselves “unfollowed” in someone’s attempt to remove that person from their lives. What happened to a good old let’s-clear-the-air discussion? Why did ‘talking it out’ and moving on or at least agreeing to disagree fall by the wayside?
In any case, I have honestly tried in the last little while to make a conscious effort to mean what I say/text/type and say/text/type what I mean. I have also made a concentrated effort to ask for clarification when I do not understand a text or an email. I try not to read in to status posts – I attempt to keep the paranoia (or some may say self-focused concern) that the status might be about me at bay. Now, don’t get me wrong, yes social media is a free forum where individuals can express their thoughts, opinions, concerns and everyone does have the right to vent and get things off their chest. We just have to be very careful that our meanings are direct, our intentions are clear, and we are communicating in exactly the way we have intended to.
In a world where so much is subject to scrutiny let’s all make an honest effort to deconstruct mistranslation, let’s focus on eliminating vagueness which leads to misinterpretation, and let’s break down the barriers of the digital language and get back to the basics by placing an emphasis on authenticity – really caring about what people have to say, desiring to understand them, and striving to have them understand us.