Most of the world has moved to virtual communication during these times of social distancing. Whether you’re working from home, visiting the doctor via telehealth, engaging in distance learning, or keeping in touch with family and friends, you’re most likely using some sort of virtual communication.
Luckily, we live in an age where we have various virtual platforms. Much communication can be done over the phone where we can hear what other people are saying. Another portion of communication can be done via video calls such as FaceTime, Duo, Zoom, Houseparty, etc. where you can not only hear what other people are saying, but you can also see their facial expressions and sometimes body language. The last way we are virtually communicating, and probably the way we most frequently communicate, is via text. Whether you are texting, emailing, posting on social media, typing into a chat with a doctor/counselor or on a forum, you are using text communication.
Virtual communication is extremely convenient; however, it has its disadvantages. Sometimes there’s background noise that makes it difficult to hear the person talking, or the reception is bad, or we ourselves are having a hard time hearing what someone is saying. Video calls have an advantage in that you can see the person(s) to interpret their facial expressions and occasional body language. Text communication is drastically different though. You aren’t hearing what the person is saying with your own ears and you aren’t seeing the person’s facial expressions and body language with your own eyes.
Think about reading. When you read you hear a voice that you’ve made up. You can’t see what’s happening, but you can visualize what’s going on through imagery. We are able to construct all of this based on our understanding of language, sentence structure, syntax, semantics, grammar, and our prior experiences.
Now think about SMS Text language. The language we all used in middle school because we had phones where you had to press the buttons a million times in order to say what you wanted to. It was easier to tell mom “OMW” rather than “On my way” when leaving a friend’s house. Maybe a friend asked if you wanted to hang out “L8R” rather than “later.” Text with people we know is interpreted differently than text with people we aren’t as familiar with. We tend to send more emojis when we’re trying to place emphasis.
In a study by Neuforn and Drinck, students in virtual learning environments were assessed for learning motivation based on the participants’ individual perceptions of written communication. They found that there were four important categories of a message: the appearance, the syntax, the vocabulary, and the empathetic communication.
It’s important to remember, as we continue to virtually communicate, that the way we write something might not be interpreted the way we intended for it to be. There are times when things we say that people hear with their ears is misinterpreted. No matter how old the person(s) you are communicating with are, if they don’t know you super well, they might not take your sarcastic comment with four question marks very sarcastically. They may in fact, think you are being rather rude. Think about the audience you are talking to or aiming to talk to in addition to what you’re trying to say, and never respond when you’re angry.