Do you ever feel like you are a different person online to who you are in real life? Do you feel that there are things you would share online that you wouldn’t share to a live person? Maybe you feel more cautious online then you are in real life.
Every once in a while I will have an experience that brings me back to this thought, and it goes something like this: I am texting, or writing a Facebook message, to someone and I have the thought that “If this were a face-to-face conversation, it probably wouldn’t sound the same at all”. It’s not that the things we are saying to each other are things we wouldn’t say in person, it’s more complicated than that.
To avoid going too vague with this, I will describe what it’s like for me. In my case, when I’m writing an email, text or other form of online communication, I tend to resort to humour much more than I would in real life. I say things in text that I probably wouldn’t say in life. But again, here’s the complication: These are things that I would say in real life, however in real life I am not always on the ball enough to get the witty quip out in time. Communicating by keyboard allows the extra time I need to think up a response, and sometimes longer to think up a response that I’m happy with. It allows me to do something that verbal communication seldom allows; editing my thought before it gets sent out. I’ve found myself tapping out a sentence on the keyboard, only to stare at it for a while and eventually delete it and starting again; Sometimes several times. As a side note, the higher the importance of the conversation, the longer I pause and read everything before sending.
When you are in a conversation in person, timing is as important as the words themselves. A long pause between words or thoughts can affect the message you are getting across. Not so with words on a page. There seems to be this strange social grace extended to people who are engaged in any form of online discussion.
A perfect example of this is if some writes you a message, say, on Facebook, and it reminds you of a line from a movie. But at that time, you are busy doing something else, and 10 minutes goes by before you type back the witty line from the movie you were thinking off. The other person LOLs with glee, and you have a warm feeling knowing that they are marveling at your wit and pop culture knowledge. Now imagine if that were a face to face conversation. They say something to you and you say nothing for 10 minutes and then suddenly blurt out a line from a movie. Now you are no longer basking in the warm glow of their adoration, but you are the victim of someone else’s friendly but sarcastic remark about being asleep which, in a cruel irony, is in the form of a movie quote.
Right about now, if the extroverts reading this haven’t dropped off by now, they are certainly not tracking with this. Maybe scratching their heads or yelling at the screen. I find it hard to believe and I personally don’t think they exist, but I’m told there are people who hate typing on a computer and would always rather have face-to-face conversations with people.
I admit, there is a certain amount of logic and sense to that point of view. Reading the body language and facial expressions of someone you are talking to is very important in making sure you are being understood. You don’t have to wonder if they got what you meant to say, because of the non-verbal things you can see.
The truth is, if given the choice, I would much rather text than talk on my iPhone. I think it comes down to point of view. I am generally a positive person, so I see the advantages of communicating face-to-face as well as chatting online. I simply prefer to later.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to read through everything I just wrote to make sure it says exactly what I mean to say.
If you have any comments, don’t tell me in person, send an email. I will send back a properly formatted, well thought out reply, sprinkled with just the right amount of wit and pop culture references. If you’re lucky, you might even get a movie quote.