Comments on: Words Flow From My Fingers: In Defense of Social Media Changing the Cultural Conversation Sat, 11 May 2013 13:47:42 +0000 hourly 1 By: Belfast Belfast Mon, 17 Dec 2012 01:20:26 +0000 chavisory wrote:

“Yup–the pressure to be able to respond immediately in spoken language almost guarantees that whatever I’ll say *won’t* be the most true or reflective version of whatever I want or mean to say.”

I couldn’t have put it so succinctly, but I totally agree. However, for me, that is most intensely, acutely agonizingly the case with strangers (!) in public (!)-aaargh.
The better I know someone (*and* vice versa, definitely), the more I feel able to say-though not necessarily *having* to say a lot in order to convey much (thanks to pre-existing, shared meanings).

Also agree with how Bob put it, about how there are advantages and disadvantages to both kinds of communication-and the profile for those pros & cons will differ with each individual.

Internet metaphor (lest it seem I’m tangenting):

One could say that as newspapers proliferated, people could publish things that would never have been read by distant people otherwise (for good and for ill). Reporting on (such as celebrity gossip) and examples of (such as printed lies) “bad” behavior would depict “goings-on” that one wouldn’t be aware of, save for the existence of & access to the newspaper.
People gossiped about celebrities and made false claims before newspapers, though the papers provided venue where more people could find out about these things, which helped in making such instances of bad behavior seem more ubiquitous due to increased visibility (preserved for posterity, being “on the record”/”in the books”).

Rachel, your post makes more great points than I can address (exceeds my ability to respond comprehensively-but that’s a compliment), and the comments are additionally articulate in noting things I would’ve wanted to mention/agree with.

By: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Tue, 11 Dec 2012 20:58:05 +0000 I agree, chavisory. I think that when Turkle talks about “connection,” she’s talking about connections that don’t seem to have a lot of substance, such as when people post memes or send each other short text messages. In fact, she seems to think that posting non-substantive stuff is what everyone does on the Internet — which is, of course, completely untrue. Plus, she completely ignores the fact that people who talk face-to-face connect over non-substantive things all the time; small talk and socializing consist largely of non-substantive contact. People don’t usually talk in order to get at substance; they just talk in order to connect with other people. It astounds me that she could see any difference between the talking that people do all the time out in the world and the ways that people connect on Facebook.

By: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Tue, 11 Dec 2012 20:48:08 +0000 You are so right — the dangers of creating an online echo-chamber for one’s assumptions are vast. Of course, they’re equally vast in the world at large. Anyone can cocoon themselves and refuse to listen to anyone who disagrees. With the Internet, at least, one has more access to these echo-chambers and can bring in outside opinions, even if it means getting banned immediately for doing so. :-)

By: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Tue, 11 Dec 2012 20:44:22 +0000 What you say makes me realize how much people idealize face-to-face conversation — as though before the Internet, we were all wonderful conversationalists eager to engage in lots of thoughtful discussion that resulted in personal growth and emotional reciprocity. The first 30 years of my life happened before the Internet became accessible to the average person, and I don’t remember meeting a lot of people who had these skills. And these days, as you and I have noticed, many people who do communicate face-to-face don’t seem to be able to engage in back-and-forth conversation. There seems to be a certain nostalgia here for a time that never happened.

By: chavisory chavisory Tue, 11 Dec 2012 19:39:31 +0000 Yup–the pressure to be able to respond immediately in spoken language almost guarantees that whatever I’ll say *won’t* be the most true or reflective version of whatever I want or mean to say.

By: chavisory chavisory Tue, 11 Dec 2012 19:36:49 +0000 Thoughts on some of Turkle’s piece…

“To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters…”

On the contrary, I have conversations online, both with people I’ve never met in person and people I’ve known in real life for years, of a depth and range and complexity that I rarely get to in face to face conversation, both because of my erratic work schedule and difficulties with spoken conversation.

“And we use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection.”

Uh, wrong. Engaging in spoken conversation, for me, is almost mutually exclusive with engaging in self-reflection, unless it’s very relaxed conversation with someone who I’m utterly comfortable with. Otherwise, the social demands of spoken conversation preclude indulging the energy demands of self-reflection. Being able to have an in-depth conversation in text, not in real time, is a huge advantage for my self-reflective abilities.

It’s stunning to me that someone would assess connection as less valuable or important than conversation. I went so long without significant connection to others, and the internet has given me so much connection to other people who have made my life richer and better…it’s just mind-boggling to me.

By: Andrew Dell'Antonio Andrew Dell'Antonio Tue, 11 Dec 2012 04:28:58 +0000 Rachel, thanks for your insights, as always. As you point out, the influence of online communication can cut both/several ways: for quite some time I read boards and was on e-groups that advocated various flavors of “autism cure”, and the self-reinforcement among those groups is remarkable. I feel fortunate that I then stumbled on some neurodiversity-advocacy sites and gradually pulled myself out of the curebie mentality, and now I rely greatly on my growing network of Autistic (and other disabled) advocates to learn to be the best possible ally to my daughter, and try to gradually unlearn the deep ableism that still haunts me. So reinforcement is great, but if the wrong ideas are reinforced, it’s also easy for it to lead to myopia (and I know you’ve encountered closed-thinking fostered by online reinforcement).

But I also relate to your “speaking as a second language” comment, even though I’m nominally “neurotypical,” since written language comes much more easily to me (though as a university professor, I’ve learned to do lecture-speech well, but one-on-one is still not as easy for me; that may come from English actually being my second language, and having a tendency to talk very fast and stutter some because I have kept some of the speech-cadence of Italian, though not a clear accent – who knows). And this means that electronic communication has always been my preferred medium … and I thank you for your impassioned defense of it, and your unpacking of the spurious arguments against it.

By: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Tue, 11 Dec 2012 04:25:09 +0000 I thoroughly relate to what you’re saying about communicating using text. It allows me to engage in far more self-reflection than talking does. I do exactly what you do — when I write something, I examine it and see whether there is a flaw in my thinking, or whether it matches the feeling I’m having. It’s much harder to reflect on my words in a face-to-face conversation, especially in a world that is so rushed.

By: Bob Rottenberg Bob Rottenberg Tue, 11 Dec 2012 02:20:31 +0000 As with so much else in the world, the problem you’re addressing is the simplification of anything, that produces a generalization that denies the existence of subtle difference. So everything that is great about face-to-face communication can also be great about on-line communication. And vice versa. There are plenty of people who are willing and able to take the time for the in-depth contacts you talk about, both in person and on line. And there are plenty of people who are too rushed, in person or on line, to really listen and respond from a deep place. After all, the “medium” (whether face-to-face or via some kind of screen) is only that: a medium. The real message comes from the ways we use the medium. As you’ve said so well, real communication involves much more than simply tossing words back and forth like a ping pong game…

By: The Goldfish The Goldfish Tue, 11 Dec 2012 00:27:35 +0000 This is brilliant, Rachel.

I’m able to leave the house so rarely, and find it extremely difficult to make friends off-line – I might have a friendly conversation with someone, but if we don’t see one another for months until I next leave the house, we’re not likely to grow close. But I have friends on-line who I “see” and interact with every week.

Some of those friendships are extremely casual indeed, but others run deep. When my marriage broke down, I went to live with one of them. I’m now living with and engaged to another. It is now fairly common for folks to find love on-line, and that’s not done with shallow “dumbed-down” conversations.

This on top of the way that the medium provides accessible community in all the ways you describe. Like you, I can be far more articulate, with much less effort, with time to think and write things down. I think, if anything, this increases self-reflection. Sometimes I write things down and think, “No, I thought I believed this, but now I’ve put it down, I realise my mistake…”

When folks talk about on-line communication in this alarmist way, I can only think they are looking in all the wrong places.