I'm not ashamed to say that 50-60% of my interaction is text based.By this I mean Facebook chat, text messaging and I'll say BBM to look cool (even though I don't have a blackberry and actually use the inferior Whatsapp). However, it would seem that alongside this trend comes a host of new social problems to be dealt with.
Hi. Hello. How are you? Good, You? Good,What you up to? Nothing,You? Nothing Much. Silence. These are the common traits of a forced conversation. I have one of these at least five times a week and probably with someone that's secretly following this blog. I always ask myself straight after such conversations why I even bother? Perhaps it's boredom. When one is done stalking the latest pictures of friends of friends Facebook can get boring. Even though I know the conversation will be just as boring perhaps something could change? maybe we could have deep chat? Another idea I've played with is that perhaps I feel the need to start conversation out of a sense of social pressure. Say you have just seen them out and about but didn't want a deep talk, maybe a small chat will make up for any perceived rudeness. Whatever the reason is, it happens, and it's made even more awkward by the fact that you both clearly remain online, making status' and posts...but just not talking to one another.
Problem two is more uncomfortable. Your friend messages you something slightly difficult: "just learned my dad is gay, my parents 25 year marriage has been a sham, so upset bbe :( ". You're genuinely sad to hear this but cannot properly handle it via a text. My inital response to such a tense text would be: "Ooh OK". Quickly followed up by sincere words of comfort. But it's too late, the damage is done, with the dreaded OK. It appears to be taken as a clear sign of the Gadaffi-like brutality of someone with no heart. I'd like to stand up for OK as a response. To me, it's simply a phrase of acknowledgement used to process ones thoughts before a heartfelt response. However, many a time have I turned conversation sour by using that response. Apparently already upset people find the handy OK a very evil phrase...
The final problem is one of tone. Jokes, stories, mood, nuance, effect and emphasis are all misshaped via BBM, text message or Facebook chat. Again this can offend an already tender person. You may try and lighten up the mood with a joke, but they probably won't see the funny side. You could try an emoticon to convey a playful mood, but this will probably make it worse. Repeatedly get caught browsing something else whilst the other person smashes away at the keyboard and no matter how many times you say sorry be sure they are still very annoyed.
It seems inevitable that my gradual withdrawal from face to face conversation will only lead to more instant message based social problems as described above. If your heading down the same route or have experienced similar issues comment below.