Ready for “Fingered Speech”?

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Am I the only one to disagree with the article that has made the rounds in the communication community this week ?

I can’t believe we are still reading about how technology is making us “more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before”.

Forbes contributor Susan Tardanico argues that for humans the only possible way to “connect” is through “authentic communication”, meaning face-to-face by using nonverbal body language, tone of voice, etc.

She believes that by using social media we are currently “attempting to forge relationships and make decisions based on phrases. Abbreviations. Snippets. Emoticons.” And adds “Which may or may not be accurate representations of the truth.”

Remember the time of faxes and letters? Remember when we used to have to decipher the real intentions of our bosses by reading between the lines? If you are communicator, that’s what you do. You deal with reflections of the truth (the real thing is elusive and subject to interpretation).

Abbreviations don’t make communication more cryptic. Humanity learnt to create different versions of the truth well before they discovered the use of emoticons.

And there certainly is a way to decipher moods and intentions behind chats, emails and, if you like, emoticons. You just have to tune into the person who is writing them.

After Forbes’ social media doom-and-gloom scenario, it was refreshing to read in John McWhorter’s column in the International Herald Tribune that “keyboard technology allows something hitherto unknown to humanity: written conversation”. He calls email and texting “fingered speech”. Couldn’t this be a new form of body language then?

His idea that texting is the linguistic equivalent of rap is interesting. Just as rap is considered a more democratic way of making music (because you don’t need instruments and training), “email and texting are also just plain handy, allowing the recipient more flexibility in answering, less invasive than a phone call and quicker than a letter”.

And who knows, because of its inclusive nature, “fingered speech” might even help us identify more authentic voices in corporate environments.

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