Social media has revolutionized human communication in a way that essentially has abolished the concept of distance in relationship to the millennia old problem of slow, long range communication. This abolition of distance has proven to allow face to face communication (livestream, Skype, video chats, etc), audio/verbal communication, and most importantly, written communication in real-time.
If we consider the origins of language, especially writing, has an incredibly complex history; including being eliminated from society through several manners whether environmental factors, sheer misfortune, or the conscious destruction of writing. We have seen numerous peoples eliminated by natural disasters or extermination, with their verbal and written languages dying too. We have seen the degradation of language during periods of dark ages like that of the European Dark Age in the Medieval Period that saw centuries of writing and knowledge lost to the chaos of that era. And finally we have seen extreme examples where written language actually almost totally eliminated from human civilization; such as what occurred during the Bronze Age collapse of 1200 BCE.
If one considers the evolution of language since its inception, the biggest challenge faced by the human species is the adequate and proper transference of thought whether through written symbols or verbal grunts and noises. The sensitivity of this transference of thought is noted as misinterpretation and miscommunication in all forms. The constant and daily miscommunication of ideas between humans create a noticeable level of drama, hostility, and other seemingly unnecessary emotional reactions. These disputes can range from the common people to the most powerful elites of society. It must therefore be recognized that as the abolition of distance and the increasing interconnectivity of the human species progresses to encompass more of the species; acknowledging the problematic nature of language must be overcome though conscious attempts at clarity and clear intention of ideas. The continuation of unconscious arrogance or ignorance creates tensions in human society that in the technologically advancing civilizations of the 21st-century has become almost completely counterproductive.
So what are some ways we can avoid miscommunication and misinterpretation?
Three helpful points can be conceived as manners of achieving this goal:
- Don’t assume- One of the biggest problems that has created a vast amount of inaccuracy and miscommunication is the notion of assuming the thoughts of another without validation. Just because one may believe they think they understand the context or intention of an idea; verification is the wisest choice of action in any scenario rather than simply assuming communication was adequately conveyed.
- Talk to the individual one is engaging in the conversation; don’t talk through them- One of the biggest challenges that can be seen in observation of people communicating through social media, especially in written format, is that people communicate using the written word as if they are face-to-face having a verbal communication. The result of this is a cyclical pattern of one individual “commenting” in a manner that may as well be shouting into the void; only to be responded to by someone applying the same shouting technique, rather than direct concise communication.
- Always re-read messages, comments, posts, etc. at least twice before sending/posting- It is extremely noticeable that many dramatic and argumentative situations on social media derive from the impulsive emotional reactions between the individuals involved. The impulsive, rapid response of an individual caught in the passion of debate or discussion can be seen full of grammatical errors, spelling errors, and full on incoherency if not adequately compiled in a multitude of comments/messages/posts by the individual to compensate for the impassioned responses. It is therefore encouraged for an individual to take a solid minute to reread, proofread, double check, and fully assess whether or not the message/comment/post is intended to communicate the desired thoughts. The utilization of time to reflect can also allow for one to fully gather the thoughts intended on being communicated. With this, one can send a single concise detailed message rather than a multitude of half worded rapidly typed responses.
While the abolition of distance for communication has revolutionized human society, human thinking, and the potential for civilization as a whole; there is still the lacking of the individual to recognize the implication of these major breakthroughs in the way that they use the technology and how one’s mind shapes and molds the technology, as well as getting shaped and molded in return. Design of language to convey thought has been its purpose since the beginning of language itself. If we truly wish to honor this heritage as a society, civilization, and as individuals; then we each must take the responsibility and the accountability of using language in the most responsible adequate manner to avoid miscommunication, to prevent misinterpretation, and to honestly and responsibly convey thoughts and ideas that can be a benefit to all.