Feb 5, 2007

"Talk to me" may have nothing to do with speech.

One side of a cell phone conversation overheard this morning as I walked to the local Peet's:

"Um, yeah, so like I talked to Dave about Brian."

"Yeah, he was like all mad 'cause I'm gonna move out and stuff."

"I don't know. I was talking to him on IM and I go 'What if Brian moves in?' And he goes 'What do you mean?' And I go 'Cause I'm moving out.' And he's all like 'Whatever.'

The superlative 20-something diction aside, what strikes me about this exchange is that instant messaging holds equal footage with live voice communication. In fact, even the roommate's negative tone of voice came across loud and clear.

This lack of distinction points to much more than just convenience. It speaks to a broader conception of what it means to communicate.

For me, the more emotionally meaningful or complicated the conversation, the more "valuable" the method I'll employ, roughly following this list:

1) Person to person
2) Live phone conversation
3) Mailed letter
4) Voice mail
5) Email
6) IM

Dropping a bomb on someone via IM seems pretty cheap and passive--but that's just me. Although it may still be considered that way by people who use IM all the time (I've heard multiple sob stories about IM breakups), it's also clear this method of communicating stands on equal footing with actual speech.

I think we need to keep this fact in mind when telling stories in multiple channels. Our tone of voice still carries in the online world, and many of the people we're "talking to" may see little to no difference between the tongue and the keyboard.


EVK4 said...

7) singing telegram

This last one is taken from a Verizon or Cingular ad where a guy breaks up with a girl via singing telegram.

Tim Rickards said...

Um, right, how could I have forgotten to put that in the list?

(Note to other readers: sailors are strange.)