Tired Thumbs

We rarely write letters these days, whether by hand or typed. Job applications and sympathy are probably the only ones. Embracing e-mails was easy, but was also accompanied with a loss of innocence. The contact was almost instant and the only effort to mail was the click of a mouse. The content became short and the language terse as these rapid communications flew back and forth, and still do, of course.

The field of computer-mediated communications (CMC) has expanded from e-mail, bulletin boards and our Facebook wall, to our Tweets and texts. The messages are smaller than ever and consequently terser and pithier. They arrive at and leave our devices every few minutes as the beeps, squeals and songs cry out for attention more fervently than our offspring.

The downside of all this is that we communicate with the wider world as if we are joshing with our friends after a few beers in the bar. Most of the relationships are not “joking relationships” but it is easy to slip into that mode when your keeping your character count down, whether to fit the space available or because your thumbs are tired.

Tired digits or no, we have slipped into a very plain form of CMCing that is visible to most of our contacts. Politeness Research (1) recently devoted a whole issue to the problem of how this plain-speak can easily be offensive or hurtful.

To date, I haven’t heard of anyone being told “you’re fired” on Twitter but I may be well behind the times. Even having your boss post it on your Facebook wall with your “friends” clicking the “Like” or “Dislike” symbols could make a bad experience worse.

  1. Journal of Politeness Research, 6, issue 1, (2010)

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