Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Words Get In the Way.

As a social media junkie, I communicate with those in my world in many different ways. Gmail, work email, MSN Messenger, Gmail chat, Blackberry PIN, mobile phone, home phone, office phone, facebook, facebook chat (which is a crappy app), my blog, blog comments, youtube, yahoo groups, email groups, and my favourite of course, skype.Some people communicate with me through specific channels, while others have much more access and seemingly know how to tap into my deepest dream to find me when they need me. I'm not complaining - I've made myself accessible. One thing I've been thinking a lot about lately is for those that I communicate with across different channels, how do I decide which channel to use when I need to talk?

It seems that the channel I select is truly dependent on what it is I want to say. Quick questions for people I work with? MSN Messenger. More complex work discussions around sensitive issues? Phone or in person for sure. And if I want to make sure you get something done, I am not above emailing you and copying your manager. Yeah, I'll go there.

For the personal stuff though, that's different. In terms of Scott, I can find him many ways during the day. Typically I opt for MSN Messenger because we are both on it for work. We're both busy, it's quick, to the point and makes it easy to check in with each other. For longer conversations, I call him on his office phone, but that is typically kept to a minimum as he shares an office with a bunch of guys and probably doesn't need his lovely wife keeping tabs on him and having to say "I love you" in front of his coworkers.

The strangest channel for me is skype. I love skype. It makes me feel like I'm sitting and having coffee with a person who is across the continent, or even across the world. You get to see and hear people that in the past you only got to speak on the phone with. But does it give you an inaccurate sense of spending time with someone? In some ways it is better than the phone, but I find there are things I can say to someone in person, over the phone or via chat that I can't say over skype. There is a disconnect because while you can see and hear that person, you don't have the benefit of touch. You can't have a hard or deep conversation and then reassure someone, and give them a hug to let them know it's okay. You don't have the safety of hiding behind text, or hiding your face as you can on the phone. You are connected but disconnected. You are a part of that person's day but not part of their world.

What does this all mean? I guess that while we have more options on how we communicate with people, we need to make conscious decisions about what channels we use, and ensure the medium fits the message, and the message isn't changed by the medium.

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