Blog of Sara Jakša

Communicating through Technology

I have a bit of a problem communicating with people through technology. Face-to-face is mostly fine, I might be a bit nervous to start talking with somebody I don't know, but mostly I can (hopefully) manage to communicate with people in a more or less alright way.

But for some reason, it is a lot more different with technology. This week, I had to send a couple of emails, and I spent more than a day procrastinating on it out of fear. Don't get me started on the phone, where I am always afraid, that I am going to be bothering somebody. Then there is any type of social media, which is just... let's say that I have run away from most of them in one point or another.

And it is not just being afraid of surveillance. If this would be the reason, then I could use encryption and weird ideas like leaving draft messages in the same email account, rather than sending it (example).

I think the problem is instead, that my social skills are most likely still below average, though I have managed to improve them a lot in the recent years. Still, without the feedback that face-to-face communication provides (as bad as I still am in reading it), I never know what the reaction is. And without that my 'OCD' problem comes forth and I continue to ruminate about it. Since I don't like ruminating about my possible social failures (I still sometimes ruminate about some that are at least 5 years old).

This could be the effect of the Technology law of amplification: Technology primary effect is to amplify human forces. The book, where this law comes from mostly deals with forces in societies, but I see no reason, why it would not also apply to me. Since I already need to push myself to socialize in real life, the technology amplifies this force and makes it even stronger. On the other hand, for people that like socializing and are comfortable doing it, I guess it would have a different effect.

This is especially true, since internet use and social capital are connected. The book Smarter than you think goes even further, saying that to take the whole cognitive benefit of the internet often require social work and social capital, though a quick search for a scientific article to confirm it turned out empty. I mean, the phones have changed the social expectations, but I definitely have problems adapting to them. Let this be the bigger flexibility in scheduling the meetings or sending random messages through the day. No matter, that the later can help with keeping track of people and creating a feeling that they are present next to us. Not to mention, I never noticed that social media is supposed to feminize the culture.

Maybe I am simply overthinking the problem. Maybe it is just, that people simply use what is the easiest, and they don't care more about it. But for me, it seems like a mess, where people have expectations, like having the phone on a person the whole time or checking Facebook multiple times a day. It is also a mess of rules, because unlike the formal manners of the pervious times, there are not explicit rulebooks here. It is also a mess, because there are so many different options.

Or maybe my fears as simply connected to the effect each of these has on my experience and on my behavior. I guess, I can simply use a quote from Cal Newport to try to highjack the words of the person better in writing than me:

When I encounter a typical knowledge economy office, with its hive mind buzz of constant unstructured conversation, I don’t see a super-connected, fast-moving and agile organization — I instead see a poorly designed distributed system.