I interact in a number of online communities (and that number may actually be "3" or "4", but "a number" sounds cooler than "some"), and have since the tender young age of 14. My experience is, I think, growing more and more common" my primary interaction with people for two, three, four, up to ten hours of any given day during my formative teenage and young adult years was through the internet. Teenagers this day and age are spending more and more time online. As the internet grows, I can only imagine that this phenomenon -- in which we participate right now, fellow bloggers and blog-readers -- will continue to grow.
I attended a conference recently -- one of those "Let's grow our employees!" conferences full of motivating speakers -- and in a couple of the seminars I attended, the speakers emphasized that 80% of human communication takes place not through words, but body language. And that of the 20% left, something like 15% of that was communicated through tone of voice. This left approximately 5% of communication to pass through the words themselves.
I think this does not please me.
Why? Ultimately, because I communicate best through words. Ether complained of being mighty in speech but not mighty at all in writing; I've got the opposite affliction. Writing is my strong suite, and vocal communication...I can do it, mind, but not as well as I write. I think this may be a reflection on my many years of preference for online communication -- or perhaps the preference is a reflection of the strength.
Either way, when you communicate strictly through words, much of the emotion, the inflection, the humor, and the other non-verbal signs that help you communicate what exactly you're trying to get across are missing.
This opens the floodgate for miscommunication.
I was recently taken to task by a forum moderator for offending folks when I hadn't...okay. Maybe I did intend offense. But not much. Just a little
. And maybe I intended it because the person with whom I was speaking was...well, she's easily offended. One of those folks who will happily take everything you say as meant in the most disparaging and mean-spirited way possible -- even if all you're saying is, "Gee, how 'bout them Mets?"
I struggle to deal with those people in real life. I'm not easily offended at all -- perhaps because I generally keep my nose in my own business -- and I find the notion of being offended by every little thing somewhat...silly.
In fact, for that matter, I find the notion of offense rather silly. What are people usually offended by? In Mormon culture, swearing should offend me. Does it? I don't find it pleasant -- I prefer if folks don't let off strings of "offensive" words at me -- but neither does it in any way harm me. What about insults? My pride may take a hit if someone insults my intelligence/looks/feelings/ideas, true -- but am I offended? Not as long as I've got the gusto to give back as good as I get.
No, I don't really see much of a purposes for offense. And in this day and age of completely written communication, in this time when it's all the easier to offend, I find the idea of being ready to take offense rather than tackle a problem or dismiss an insult to be entirely counter-productive.
In fact, I can only think of one thing that really, truly offends me: people who are easily offended.