The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished
— George Bernard Shaw
Sending messages over WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger has become second nature. We get a thought, an idea or have news and we are quick to send a message. When we send a message, we may confuse it with as having communicated. It is not.
Imagine you send a message to a friend about the fantastic day you had and why it was special to you. Yes, you have sent the message. Yes, your friend has read the words in the message. But is it communication or a mere exchange of information? The text can not transfer your excitement nor would the friend be able to appreciate why the day was so special to you.
This is why even in the era of instant messages, we are lonelier than ever, and misunderstandings are increasing. If it is your birthday, replying to the birthday wishes seems more like a chore than bringing pure joy.
We communicate through much more ways than just words. Body language, the tonality of voice, hand gestures all form a part of the communication. Since childhood, we learn to read these non-verbal cues. A toddler who may not be able to talk can still understand when he is told not to do something, just by observing the body language and tone of the voice. We always read these cues. If you are narrating to your friend how you had a great vacation, your voice expresses excitement too. No amount of emojis can ever transfer happiness, joy or even anger.
Understanding the medium and its limitations can help us to use it in the best possible manner. WhatsApp or messaging apps are not great for:
Discussions & Debates
It is difficult for a person to communicate a complex idea using words alone. We learn and form our opinions through a mix of articles and videos. When our learning is happening through both verbal and non-verbal communication, it is natural that we feel limited when trying to express our complex thoughts solely through text messages.
When we are emotionally charged it will be impossible for us to achieve complete communication over messages. Be it happiness, love, sadness or anger. In such situations, the choice of words matters a lot. If both persons are not in the same emotional state, they may perceive the same sentence differently. With the tone of voice, body language missing from the communication, it is easy to have misunderstandings when using text for emotional exchange. WhatsApp or messaging apps are great for:
Say you are meeting a friend and you are running a bit late. All you want to communicate is the fact that you would be late by 15 mins. This would be perfect information to send over a message. Any information, where the sole purpose is only to let the other person know about an event, an update or news.
Sharing Media & Links
You found something interesting on the internet, and you feel your friend would like it too? Share it over the message. Messages are a perfect way to exchange links, photos or any media.
Staying in touch with an extended circle: Messaging apps are a great way to create a sense of staying up to date with people you don't meet often. So be it an old school friend or whether you are staying away from the family, messaging apps can help maintain a sense of connection.
The writer is Vinayak Garg, Founder of Zest.Md (India)