Conversation through messaging: a new kind of magical power

Matt Kaplan wrote an interesting piece about how conversation is our species’ magical power and Millennials have been “deprived of the social and cultural advantages of practicing conversation.” His thesis is that messaging makes us more efficient, but relying heavily on it can make communication less effective.

I (respectfully) disagree.

I think that having a conversation through messaging is a different kind of magical power.

The on-demand conversation

Everything in today’s world is on-demand. Most of my friends don’t have cable, they consume their video content on their own time, when they want, digitally. This model has been applied to every imaginable vertical because it fits the on-the-go lifestyle that most people exhibit.

Messaging allows us to have powerful conversations on our own time. You can carry on a back-and-forth with someone throughout the day, or week, or even month, as you are doing the other 500 million things you do every day. It first our on-the-go lifestyle far better, and allows you to have more conversations with more people on your own time.

A more thoughtful back-and-forth

Ed Yong writes in the Atlantic, that one of the greatest human skills when it comes to conversations is not what we say but what we don’t say.

“It’s there in the pauses, the silence, the gaps between the end of my words and the start of yours.”

During a typical conversation, we take turns speaking back and forth. On average, each turn lasts for around 2 seconds, and the typical gap between them is just 200 milliseconds. This statistic exists across cultures, and is even there in sign-language conversations.

Why is there such a short gap? Because we build our responses during the other person’s turn. We listen to their words while simultaneously crafting our own thought, so that when it’s our turn to talk we jump onto it as quickly as possible.

When you are having a conversation through messaging, however, those gaps in between are longer. You have ample time to read what someone said, digest it, focus on it, and then formulate your own thoughtful response. It often makes for higher quality conversations.

Getting emotional

One of the drawbacks with messaging is that it’s difficult to convey the proper emotional context in a message. Think about it. This:

Ok I’ll see you there.

Is very different than this:

Ok I’ll see you there!

The second one says “Hell yes I’m pumped to see you!” The first message convesy luke-warm excitement about meeting up.

But, the good news is, our power to convey emotion through messaging is growing 😃

Emojis and gifs give us the ability to better convey how we’re feeling when we send a message to someone. If you haven’t checked out the app Peach, it is a super interesting study at the emotional psychology behind messaging.

Having a conversation with the unattainable

Restricting conversation to in-person experiences means that who you talk to is restricted. Messaging opens the door to the possibility of having a conversation with anyone, no matter how famous or busy they are. It also allows us to have conversations with organizations, connecting with brands, media outlets, and groups that logistically is very difficult to do in person.

Messaging represents a new kind of human interaction, and a new kind of magical power.

Rebecca is the cofounder and CEO of Purple, the messaging centric media platform.

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