The Problems with Writing

Not the most effective communication media.

I think the problem with trying to use written or typed media as a forum for conversation (or arguments) presents a huge challenge. Tones of voice and facial expression are lost on written media. There is no sarcasm sound to reading, and it can only be shown by some indicator such as italics or /s. But then you have a problem of people not understanding that the italics or /s meant sarcasm. And yes you can say that not everyone is good at getting sarcasm, even those that hear it. But when someone who hears it doesn’t understand it, they have a chance to immediately respond, and the person who said it has a chance to immediately clarify. The same cannot be said for written sarcasm. The reader must first spend their time writing out their thoughts, of which can be a problem in itself (see first article). But the time it takes to write something can lead to inevitable confusion somewhere down the line because the complete thought may get lost in the respondent’s head. And once the reader finally gets their words onto the screen and sent to the writer, now we begin again, where the writer now has to take a much longer time typing, than would be necessary if he could just speak the words. And still with no tones of voice and facial cues to go off of, the responses can lose some meaning, and therefore may require more typed words to be written to give still more clarity, and the cycle goes on and on until eventually everyone gets tired of typing out everything they wish to construe and the conversation dies and no ones’ minds have been changed from their original thoughts or misinterpretations.

That doesn’t mean that this happens all the time in written conversation. But it does seem to be more exhausting and taxing because of the extra effort required to be clear and concise so that your meaning can be better understood. And yes not all orally presented conversations go the greatest either. Resorting to name calling in either medium usually will not end with any agreement between two parties and will probably lead to more resentment. But at least with spoken conversations, they can be said and done much more quickly than written arguments. You might think to yourself, “but I’ve been sitting at the bar with my friends (but I’ve been sitting at the pub with me mates) and had hours of conversation, talking back and forth, arguing about the current state of affairs of the world. What’s the difference?” And yes, I’ve been in that same situation, but if you think about how long it would take to have written down that whole conversation, it would probably take weeks or months and could fill an entire book with dialogue. And even then, if you got it all written out in a nice neat book, you might have a reader who misunderstands something because your buddy grinned at you as he said something (as in saying something jokingly) but that wasn’t communicated to the reader so they don’t see the humor in the statement. You can just get much more depth into a conversation when speaking versus writing.

I don’t want this to stop people from conversing through writing, I think any constructive dialogue in any medium is better than no conversation at all. But I think we need to look at the possibility that writing things down will not always work and that sometimes we have to have polite conversations face to face in order to help people reach a more full understanding of our intent, ideals, and beliefs.

This article is a tangent I went on while writing my first article about not being able to write (to Medium) because my mind goes on too many tangents while writing anything down. If you’ve read either or both please feel free to share your thoughts or frustrations with me.