Monday, July 23, 2012

How We Communicate Through Digital Devices by Rob Pell

Rob Pell is a freelance writer who works in the field of digital communications.

You can visit Rob's website @

Thank you Rob for your contribution to The Guest Writer Blog

How We Communicate Through Digital Devices
Written by Rob Pell
The digital age has made the spread, flow and reception of information far easier, so it’s no wonder that it has also dramatically altered the ways in which we communicate with one another. Traditional factors that drove conversation in bygone ages have disappeared and been replaced with new methods of communication.
Even the dynamics of communication have changed; once upon a time we had to be where we said we were going to be at any given time, now this is not the case. The increased reliability of digital communication devices that can be used on the move has, in turn, allowed humans to become less reliable.
Whether this has made us better communicators or worse communicators is a matter of debate. What is certain though is that the ability to send a text to a friend explaining that we will be late or requesting to meet in a different location has introduced levels of insincerity into the communicative process that previously did not exist.
These new methods of communication have skewed the way in which we perceive ourselves as individuals and as parts of a group. The connectivity of digital devices means that we are almost never truly alone; we are almost inescapably connected to all our friends and contacts, 24/7.
This connectivity means that, while we previously had very clear perceptions of what it means to be alone or together, the lines are now blurred. We now operate a sort of ‘communication hierarchy’ where certain methods of communication are given more prestige than others.
For example dumping someone or passing on important information by text is considered a major no-no, while telephoning someone to give them a textable piece of micro-information is similarly a social faux pas.
The paraphernalia that comes with such digital communication devices has also altered the ways in which we communicate. While headphones have been available since the 1980s, the popularization of smartphones and other digital devices that double up as media players has led to a marked increase in their use.
Wearing headphones is akin to wearing a sign that says “don’t talk to me”, giving us a simple way of avoiding potentially important confrontation, discussion and communication. This form of non-communication is actually communicative in itself as it shows others how receptive we will be to interaction. , another modern communication anomaly.
Away from smartphones and portable devices – although not entirely disconnected, this is the digital age after all – are the worlds of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks that exist digitally online. These methods of communication – coupled with the rise of broadband internet –  unprecedented levels of cross-platform conversation.

Two friends might be discussing something via text; they may want to add a third friend to the conversation so they move to WhatsApp; one friend wants to share a video and does it quickly and easily on Twitter; the three friends then decide to organize something and so set up a Facebook group. This back and forwards, cross-pollination of information is something all effective digital communicators will be aware of, the ease of such complex communication in the modern age has made it a regular occurrence.
This is where the argument that modern technology is killing the art of communication falls apart; in many ways modern technology is giving communication an element of sophistication it has never enjoyed before. You could say that what we are experiencing is communication, but not as we knew it.

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