Monday, April 14, 2008

Bridging the divide

I've been given to wondering recently about the ways in which we people conduct our conversations in daily life. I've had some discussions with several people by now, examining the interactions in real life compared to those in the "blogosphere", one of a number of longer running issues.

I, for one, enjoy a good and constructive conversation but find it difficult to articulate my views verbally. Whilst knowing what I want to say, I usually have no idea of how to put across my point of view because I'm constantly reviewing and analysing issues, wording and acceptability of my standpoints. Probably part of the problem I described a couple of days ago, the mental chatter that causes noise and confusion. Nevertheless, I sincerely enjoy a good conversation with someone I can trust and am familiar with, who understands what I'm on about and will accept my views on at least face value. There's also a good deal of comfort just by being able to talk to someone face-to-face, a form of intimacy that is quietly pleasing.

On the other hand, there are the exchanges conducted online which, almost by definition, are more public and more fluid. Views are shared, echoed and discussed by many voices and displayed on monitors close to you as a result of the turning on and off of electrical impulses. Occasionally, when the discussion goes too deep though, we resort to more personal communication such as email or instant messanging to contact the disembodied souls who play such an important part in our lives.

For my part, I'm very pleased with the new media at my disposal. I have the opportunity to present my own views, read those written by others, discuss and evaluate a million subjects I'd never been able to do before in the past and develop a sense of community with my own small global village. On the other hand, I'm having difficulty making the shift from the more traditional media (direct speech, personal interaction) to the global modes of discourse. Despite all the best of intentions, there is a huge difference between communicating with people in the local sphere and those in the global one.

One of the subjects that keeps coming back is one of familiarity. The people in one's life are to a certain extent predictable, well-known and less open to misunderstanding because modes of interaction are already in place and continued on a frequent basis. On the other hand, although familiarity can grow and knowledge of a kindred soul "out there" can be cultivated across time there is, for me, an almost whistful feeling of missing something important, of only being able to understand others through a fog of electronically generated noise with all the potential for incorrect conclusions and faulty judgements.

How do you feel on this subject, does the issue of on- and offline communication play an important part in your life? How do you organise your digital daily doings and keep that separated from your own real life? Do you mix the two up sometimes? Let me know, I'm interested...

Keep well...



  1. I'll start with a somewhat embarrassing confession: at our old residence, we had wireless and five computers on three floors. I sometimes instant messaged my family that it was time to come to dinner.

    This house has a wireless router at the desktop & there are two laptops that come and go. When it's time for dinner, I say to my family, out loud, "It's time for dinner." :-)

    I have at times preferred addressing household and family concerns with MrZ, who travels extensively, via e-mail rather than by telephone. It's not just a matter of not wanting to interrupt his work with personal matters. I find that I am clearer, more direct, more precise, more thorough, when I type. If I'm truly miffed but wanting to keep things rational, it's been helpful at times to have the screen between him and me.

    On the phone yesterday, I was trying to relay to him all that had transpired over the very wet weekend here. If I had been writing, I would have conveyed that I only wanted moral support and perhaps a little bit of a pat on the back for handling things. I would have spelled out my "tone." Since I was speaking -- and this is generally the case when speaking, I think -- I didn't spell it out. Because he had nothing to go on but the tone of my voice, he had no idea what I needed. So, while I was pouring all of the anxiety-laden and frustrating events out, he was saying, "Uh-huh," and "oh," and Mmmhmmmm." Finally, I explained that after twenty-four hours the sump pump was switching on for five seconds every three minutes. That's when I paused for breath. He then asked, "What's THAT going to do to the electric bill?"

    I can laugh about it now, because that's ... that's just MrZ. But at the moment he asked that? Not so funny. I was instantly hurt. I said, in a completely different tone, "Fine. You're absolutely right. I'll unplug the damned thing and we'll stock the crawl space with trout."

    And then he got it: she needs appreciation and support, not another thing to worry about.

    Sometimes I think we need online marriage counseling. Keyword: online. Or we'd only end up in tears or, ugh, shouting :-) (Tongue in cheek -- could you *hear* that?)

    I think communication VS e-communication is a fascinating topic which only becomes more complex and interesting when the basic differences between women and men are added.

    My two cents.

    Which has turned to four cents while I await the arrival of various work crews who are clearly running late or not going to show up at all :-D

  2. My first thought after reading this was, 'I should blog about this,' and so I think I'll go and do that.

    *So much for blog fairying with morning coffee. You're at the top of my bloglines and I told myself I'd read through everyone before attempting my own post today. FIRST visit and you've triggered that obsessive creative gene that must respond immediately to an idea.
    This is something you do to me ALL THE TIME. There's something in that in itself about this strange and wonderful new form of communication. After all, who stands at the water cooler at work speaking to a coworker, then says, 'Hold that thought! I've got to go write down what you just inspired me!!' Only bloggers do this.

  3. I often get accused of spending too much time on line and treating the blog world as more important than the 'real world'. But this weekend I had the fantastic experience of meeting three blog friends in real life and I think we all found that our pre-existing blog relationship meant that we felt like old friends when we did meet.

  4. thank you for your long and personal input here zilla... as you've so eloquently described, there are things that aren't able to be conveyed easily in a face to face confrontation because the familiar mindset kicks in even before the message is delivered and processed according to the existing protocols, on the other hand intonation and body language convey a whole universe of meaning to amplify or modify the message given... on the other side the electronic communication is devoid of much human input we rely on in daily life, a handicap in some ways but helpful in others because it filters out unneeded noise and secondary considerations when attempting to find a common ground for a useful dialogue...

    and if, indeed, you throw the male/female difference into the equation you suddenly realise that much of the communication we try to effect is more an attempt at minimising miscommunication whislt hoping to transfer the right information in a useful way...

    all in all, communication both onliine and offline can be a minefield if the necessary qualities of give and take aren't observed...

    oh dear, i've gone and done it again haven't i ange... please accept my humble apologies for having bothered the blog fairy today, totally inadmissable ;-)
    i'm glad you've picked up on this subject though, it's one you would be very good at i think as you're quite at home in this brave new world of digital dialogue...

    you managed to get ME laughing though, i misread one word toward the end of your comment and instead of reading co-worker i read cow-orker which might be something freudian but nevertheless very funny :-)))

    i've often suffered the same rebuke helen and occasionally it was justified also... there are so many possibilities for the creative mind, it becomes difficult at times to slow down and create an effective balance between online and offline worlds... the few occasions i've been able to meet fellow bloggers in real life have been onderful moments, reinforcing the already strong "intellectual" bonds with some meaningful one-to-one interaction

  5. i don't think i can give this post due attention right now but may return to it later... too much food for thought to simply let it pass
    (a long and difficult monday is behind me and i came home with a headache so...)

  6. Oh Bart I read this post like a vulture anticipating a kill. Wait, that was just too beastly, um, lemme see if I can think of another analogy...

    Oh crap I was just really excited to see this post, intrigued by it and couldn't wait to get out of my blogline feeds to get over here and read...

    Interesting post, and hmmm the first thing that struck my mind was that I am able to, through the course of writing, get all of my thoughts out, not leaving off things like I do in real life, if they're down on paper or on the screen I am able to re read and make sure that I have included everything I intended to say. I am not concise, in real life or in print, and I probably don't need to tell you that, heh. I am a babbler in both spheres.

    When I am talking to someone face to face I think that my body language often times says more than my words, and that's part of the reason I can be misunderstood in type, I think. Also, I tend to just open my mouth and let 'er rip. Whatever is in my mind just rushes out of my mouth. When I write I take the time to think, before I write, most times.

    So I'm more thoughtful in type, probably, and more inclusive. When I have to do a workshop I am very careful to write out everything that I want to say, and then I just file the paper away and it seems to stick in my mind. But if I were to not write it down first I would most likely leave out chunks and repeat myself. Writing helps me to organize my thoughts.

  7. Interesting post and fascinating responses.
    I agree with your other commenters in that we expose sides of ourselves online that we wouldn't necessarily expose in Real Life - at least not until we know someone very well. In blogging we can muse, ponder, banter and and if done with honesty, the relationships build very quickly.
    Like Helenmh, I've met several bloggers in real life and it was just like a continuation of the blog but in 3D:-)
    As for organizing my 'digital doings', well I'd always rather email someone than talk on the phone, even family - but that's just me:-)

  8. not a problem polona, it's a difficult subject and one i have difficulty with myself... hope your headache's better by now ;-)

    you're in good company fineartist... most people find a way of organising their thoughts by writing, taking the time to formulate standpoints and sifting out irrelevancies and possibilities for misunderstanding...

    body language says a lot but in writing one can express effectively what needs saying in a condensed, compressed and efficient way...

    also, writing eliminates the confrontational element sometimes present in human relationships that distorts or misforms communication because people don't dare say exactly what's on their mind...

    yes, it's a fascinating topic lane and one needing a lot more research to my mind... we're a lot more open online, to our credit, and indeed if the honesty is present there is a very solid basis for a constructive dialogue, also when fellow bloggers are met and the gaps are filled in...

    you're not alone, incidentally, in preferring to organise life digitally instead of verbally... it's not dependent on a fixed time-frame and also more precise in some ways...

  9. Tried fairying again today, started here, then remembered I started posting on this, but didn't finish because it was so dang personal, and ya never know who might go through old emails and remember, "Oh yeah. Ange has a blog thing."

    Maybe I'll just try to write about cow-orking.

  10. glad you dropped by on this post ange, i suspected it made a mark on you but i understand what you're saying after what happened last year... you're welcome to share your views, either here or personally if it makes you feel more comfortable...

    oh, and cow-orking seems to be a fairly fulfilling pasttime for those who have delved deeply enough ;-)