Your mind doesn’t really understand it means to be online.
For example, I’m sitting in front of a computer screen, typing something that I will post on my blog. Am I really conceptualizing the experience of each and every real, living, thinking, influencing person out there reading this post? Am I also keeping in mind the network of people they’re part of with whom they might share this post if it strikes them? Or recalling that the words that I’m writing will be in the pubic domain, findable and searchable, forever?
Kind of makes you stop and think for a second, doesn’t it?
I’m probably not going to be able to process all of this — it’s just too much to ask of me and my simple caveman brain. And I think it’s too much to ask of most people, which is why typing an email or writing a Facebook status update is the online version of road rage: we forget ourselves and morph into semi-anonymous bots who act in ways we never would in the real world (unless you know lots of people who shout out, “I’m taking another nap at work!” in a permanent, globally searchable database that will live on forever).
Since you’re bound to forget this too, why not cling voraciously to common sense and good manners?
Why not ask yourself if the tweet/status update/text/IM/blog post/email you’re about to write would hold up if you had to stand and read it to a close friend or a relative or your third grade teacher or a loved one or your boss?
It’s deceptive to type away and think/hope/fear that no one is listening. Would you act differently if you were standing in front of a room filled with everyone who might hear you and all of their friends?
I sure hope not.
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A new service has been launched called Slydial, which lets you place a phone call that goes directly to a persons’ voicemail, without the phone ever ringing. The service addresses the silent wish of every teenager who, for the past three decades, has whispered to herself, “I hope no one is there and I can just leave a message.”
The Slydial website describes when you might use their service:
Create the illusion of communication
You maxed out your emergency credit card the first week of school. Your parents are looking for some answers. A text message isn’t going to cut it but a voicemail would mean that you tried calling them.
Wow. Pretty bold to come out and state that your value proposition is to create the illusion of communication.
The number of tools we have to communicate is multiplying. If I want to let someone know what’s on my mind, I now have to decide between a phone call, an email, an SMS message, posting on my blog, updating my Facebook or MySpace or LinkedIn or Plaxo Pulse profile. And if I were 20 years younger I could add to that list things like Twitter, video messages, vMix, Bebo, and of course Slydial.
All of this is very exciting, but it also requires a new kind of filtering and understanding of which messages are appropriate for which media. There is also the risk that, as the media multiply, less time and effort goes into composing messages that create a real connection and understanding between people. We end up with lots more information, but a lot less meaning, and we lower the bar on what’s good enough in communications with the excuse that email (or SMS or whatever else) is supposed to be sanitized and devoid of emotion and real connection.
The medium is not itself the problem. But when I find myself emailing someone who sits 6 feet away from me in the office to ask a question, I do wonder if things have gone too far. At least I’m not Slydialing them…yet.