“Digital communication is completely different from in-person, face-to-face conversations. One will give you surface insights, and the other really gives you depth.” Joe Gebbia
These days, much of our communication is through text, email, Snapchat, Instagram and endless other social platforms. And while these social networking and digital tools may allow for faster and easier communication, they also create plenty of room for misinterpretation. We now live in a world where we are forever trying to understand the subtext of a text.
How often do you find yourself mulling over the intention behind someone’s written words? More often than not, because of our negativity bias, the inference we create is negative in nature. And no matter how clear the wording may seem, it is missing key elements of the spoken word. Body language, facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, tone and pace, emotion and of course the ability by both the listener and speaker to clarify meaning and intention are all important facets to communication (not to mention social contact and touch). Face-to-face communication is an art, the importance of which is lost through other mediums.
When I was in college, I spent some time living in Spain, during which time I had a Spanish friend who did not speak English. Though I was studying Spanish, there were definitely times of miscommunication which would often lead to frustration. When these times arose, my friend would say “Okay, there is a misunderstanding, let’s start over.” This communication “do-over” proved to be the best tactic as the frustration was usually due to the misinterpretation of a word or intention. Like these language differences, written communication, even in the same language, can leave us confused and wading in a pool of misconception.
While the plethora of social communication platforms certainly offer a variety of benefits, one might argue that they do so in a disconnected way. These platforms cannot ever truly replace face-to-face communication and social interaction. It is important that we not lose sight of the potential for misinterpreting the intention behind someone’s Facebook post or email, the importance of a communication “do over” when confusion arises and the necessity, as human beings, for social interaction. A good practice is to remember that with digital communication there arise plenty of room for miscommunication. Use it with that in mind and insure that your in-person social connectedness does not wane. Go out into the world and be involved in your life.