Text based communications vs. voice or face to face – What do you think?

A little background on why I chose this subject:

This is something I wrote a while back in a private Livejournal of mine, but never published anywhere else and never really finished. Story of my life.

The reason this topic is significant to me is that I have spent a great deal of the past 15 years living my life online. I play games online, I socially network, I use p2p apps, I job hunt, and Im generally someone who is expected by friends and family to wind up meeting someone online for a long term relationship, or to at least continue his habits unabated. As a result of my hobby/addiction, Ive periodically been confronted by others who do not share my love of the internet, and in fact attempt to judge my online relationships (platonic or no) as unreal or invalid. Ive encountered people who simply cannot imagine having a satisfying relationship of any kind with another human being without sitting down face to face for coffee a couple times a week. While I respect our differences, I cannot imagine having missed out on all the great people and great experiences Ive had online, so I find this thinking to be out-dated and narrow, but I do respect it since the world is a very different place today than even just 20 years ago before this great internet found its way into most of our homes. I do not fault the generations before me for not sharing in my enthusiasm for the net.

You might think that someone as much into the online lifestyle as I would take offense to such adverse points of view, but its really not hard to see how folks might question such behavior. Even the science of psychology seems to label the behavior of an individual who spends much time online as aberrant and antisocial, and this is primarily because psychology is still evolving within this modern world. Current definitions of aberrant behavior might benefit from a little critical review, within this context. Online gaming and online lifestyles are, without a doubt, not antisocial at all, but a new type of socializing which is admittedly more shallow in some ways, but rich and varied through modern technology and is simply a new type of human social interaction that must be recognized. If you are thinking “Well, what about exercise??”, this goes without saying and hopefully I wont have to spend a whole lot of time explaining that balance in life is good. ; )

I have always been a fan of electronic communication. Ive lived a virtual life for as many years as its been possible for me, and Ive surrounded myself with technology. But here I am at age 34, beginning to feel the need for a more human method of communication with those I care for, and also recognizing the limitations of my preferred medium.

I think, for gaining understanding and knowledge, sharing of factual concepts and other concrete forms of communication, there is no problem at all with text.
Folks can even locate compatible partners in love and begin relationships this way – no problem. I am personally a little biased towards this idea due to the online relationships Ive had, as those who know me will recall.
However, I think even the greatest of writers can still only place a small percentage of the emotional connotations into their written words as is instantly felt when viewing or hearing a live human being. Words are a conduit and through them, a good writer can definitely bring out emotions in his or her reader, but its never the same, and I speak of good writers…

I can say “I love you” in text, and it is known that I love you.
If I say it to your face or at the very least your ear, you FEEL this in a way that is impossible to convey otherwise, regardless how you dress it up.

Our poetry, biography, theater, history, and virtually all literature are drenched in such electric humanity and passion… yet our current form of written communication, technically, is but an instrument to be mastered by us slowly as we grow, and by some, never mastered at all. I do not seek to call into question the talent or skill of our great writers, but how many of us can profess to truly knowing what the author meant with each word? With each idea?  Accurately expressing the human spirit with words is a challenge and great writers are few, so should we be aware of the increased potential for miscommunication in relationships that are primarily text based?

And yet it seems that even a novice of literacy is still a natural born master of a more fundamental language without even realizing it- the language of expressive, face to face emotion through body language, posture, and vocal intonation. Not everyone feels they are necessarily *good* at this sort of thing, but without being normally conscious of this fact, they are providing a wholly more visceral and enduring memory of their personality and character. I was about to start babbling about science, vocal communications between higher life forms, sociology, anthropology, and evolutionary science, but Im going to keep that to a minimum. Plus, Im not well enough educated on the subjects to do this without referencing heavily. I just write stuff.

And so, this is a genuine invitation to debate/discuss this topic, however I will not try to veil my motivation for asking by claiming my interest is purely rhetorical. It is certainly related to my own past, present, and future internet relations and I am curious about how others feel, and what they have experienced. I also do feel that I should attempt to pass down some small, personal insight to those younger than me who might conceivably have even more net-centric lifestyles than I, and who might communicate through text an even greater percentage of the time. Can you think of any conflicts or drama that you have been through that might have been avoided if the people involved were face to face?

Have you ever observed your own written communications not living up to how you really feel, despite toiling over something in the hopes you could reach out to someone? Have you ever felt unfulfilled that what you said was only read, and not heard or felt? Have you ever read your writing and felt bottled within a limited scope of adjectives, despite having the wealth of the internet at your fingertips? Have you ever felt dehumanized by electronic communications in the context of our modern internet? Or, through rich, realtime content and audio/video conferencing technology, might it be possible to connect with people in ways that drastically lower the chances of being misunderstood, and in fact magnify the probability of 2 people getting to know each other in a far deeper, less pretentious way, prior to meeting in person?

I doubt Ill be altering my chosen method of communication nor my online lifestyle anytime soon, but I am interested in the topic and I am a critical thinker. What do you have to say?

Published by milkman76

Father and husband, idealist, activist, argumentalist, masterdebtor, and all around swell guy. Also- likes to aim spotlights at piles of ideological bullshit, and taking a magnifying glass to the material conditions that caused our current capitalist hellscape.

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