Sending text messages and emails are extremely helpful if you are quickly arranging social plans or catching up with an old friend. They are fast, simple, and to the point. In turn, they allow you to convey a straightforward message without all the small talk that comes with a face-to-face conversation. However, while replacing verbal communication with texting and emailing, we are losing so much in the process.
Between 80 and 90% of our communication is supported by nonverbal cues. Meaning, when we have a verbal dialogue with someone, a large portion of the impression that we make is based on body language, facial expression, intonation, and rate of speech. We decide whether the other person is being sarcastic or humorous by analyzing their pitch and speech pattern. Furthermore, we use these factors to decide whether or not we will trust the person we are speaking to. Where is the presence of these elements when we text message and email?
Text messaging and emailing are completely void of inflection and facial expressions. Therefore, a brand new language has been created. It has turned language into a very black and white process, where we are expected to read in between the lines of actual text, instead of interpreting the speaker’s nonverbal cues.
Instead of emphasizing words with inflection like we do while speaking, we are forced to emphasis words by capitalizing them. Without capitalization, we are unsure of where the significance lies. When you text message someone a simple sentence (“I liked your shirt today”, for example), it can be misconstrued in the following ways:
- I liked your shirt today = I liked your shirt, but no one else did.
- I liked YOUR shirt today = I liked your shirt, amongst the shirts of other people, which I didn’t like.
- I liked your SHIRT today = Out of all the clothes you were wearing today, I only liked your shirt.
- I liked your shirt TODAY = I liked your shirt today, but didn’t like it other days.
Furthermore, if the sender doesn’t capitalize the words that they are expecting us to emphasize, we are left to wonder. The message is entirely too open to interpretation, and miscommunication will eventually follow.
Using abbreviations like “LOL” (Laughing Out Loud) or “JK” (Just Kidding) can additionally change the meaning of a text message. For example, saying “I liked your shirt today jk”, has a completely different connotation than the original sentence.
In today’s day and age, we are moved to take action by a text message that reads: ???????? Gestural communication is out the metaphorical window, and new forms of language are making their presence known. We have become a society completely reliant on emoticons, punctuations and abbreviations. The 80-90% of our communication processes that involved nonverbal communication is obsolete and we are left a simple 20% of the messages through words and symbols. We are constantly relearning to communicate through this new form of language. But should we be?
Suggestion: if you’ve exchanged three to five text messages with the same person, how about you give your thumbs a rest and call them up.
with Linda Rosenblum