“I have found that once people have texting, chat, and email available, they stick with them even when they suspect that these are not the right tools for the job. Why? They are convenient. They make us feel in control. But when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and less in control, our relationships, creativity, and productivity thrive.”
Sherry Turkle examines the popularity of texted-based communication in her book, Reclaiming Conversation. First, it gives us time to compose our thoughts. We can type and erase a potential message several times. This is something that we cannot do in a phone conversation or in a face-to-face meeting. In that sense, we don’t have as such control in those situations.
Speaking to someone directly has its benefits, however. As Turkle, illustrates, a real conversation helps to spark creativity and productivity. I wrote about the Power of Boredom to illustrate some example of how that works.
I bet you have been frustrated when someone didn’t understand your text message or when your tone was misunderstood. This is something that easily happens when messaging someone.
What is the Right Tool?
“In every encounter, we need to use the right tool for the job. Sometimes face-to-face conversation is not the right tool for a particular job.”
However, you need to make sure the tool you are using is going to help you accomplish your goals. “Having the whole person before you is reliably the best way to begin. It gives you the most information to decide which communication tools you need to move forward.
Once you are on the same page with someone, using text-based communication might be the best way to go, in certain situations. Other times, a quick phone call or meeting might be better. It’s up to you to figure it out. Don’t simply rely on one tool because it is easy.
“Every new technology offers an opportunity to ask if it serves our human purposes. From there begins the work on making technology better serve these purposes. It took generations to get nutrition labels on food; it took generations to get speed limits on roads and seatbelts and airbags into cars. But food and transportation technology are safer because all of these are now in place. In the case of communication technology, we have just begun.”
I wonder what kind of things will be embedded into our communications technology in the future. Do we need to make communications technology safer? Can we do something to stop the negativity that seems to run rampant on certain platforms? Can we use something other than emojis or abbreviations to communicate tone?
Perhaps this goes beyond simply choosing the right tool. Maybe we need to refine the tools we already have. Interesting thought!