Friday, December 30, 2011

Regarding Communication

Methods of communication in reverse order of how much I like them, with ratings:

Desktop Computer Text Chat (1/10)
If I made a complete list, this would actually fall somewhere lower than "smoke signals", "yelling really loudly" and "hiring a courier". Desktop computer text chat is the worst of all worlds. It's intrusive. You generally are expected to reply back quickly. There is no voice or body language. While you are typing, I am sitting there looking at a screen, trapped, doing nothing. While I have had some lovely text chats in the past, I really abhor it as a general method of communication.

Note that I classify "desktop computer text chat" as completely separate from "phone texts". The significant difference between phone texting and desktop computer text chat is that I don't think there's ever a feeling that you need to reply right away to a phone text -- it's non-intrusive and fitting for short exchanges (see more, below). Also, with the phone text you can't see that I'm "online" so there's no feeling of intrusion (or avoidance... as I go offline sometimes purely to avoid having anyone text me...) Plus, it's a phone, in my pocket. I can keep doing other stuff and just check later to see if you replied back.

Voice mail (2/10)
This is like phone calls without the personal element. Also, it is a considerable comfort to me that there is no record of spontaneous dumb things I have said in the past and voicemail threatens this aspect of my happiness. Plus, talking to a machine that is going to record my awkward half-assed "why am I talking to a machine" verbiage just to play it back later just feels weird. (If I've ever called you, got no answer, didn't leave a message and then sent you a text, now you know why.)

Phone calls (3/10)
The phone can be convenient but generally I frown on it because it's so intrusive. It's like knocking on your door for 15 seconds straight until you either answer, I give up or voicemail kicks in. I would rather do an email exchange. Unless my house is on fire or something has exploded or you otherwise need an answer RIGHT NOW, I consider a phone call to be fairly low on the list. If I call you rather than text you it's probably because you have expressed a dislike of text messages in the past and I am trying to honor your wishes.

There is an argument to be made for phone calls and loved ones -- you want to hear their voice. And some might say that "phone calls are more personal" but I would disagree with that one. How is a phone call more personal than a letter (or text message) addressed to you, written for you?

Facebook/email/blogs/forums (9/10)
Anything I can sit down and type up is pretty ideal. In ye olden times, hand-written letters would have been a common way for us to communicate if we didn't live next to each other and these new methods are the same thing without the messy handwriting(*). Like text messages, it's non-intrusive and lets me think of exactly what to say and you can take all the time you want in responding.

(* - handwritten letters aren't entirely dead, though. They're far more personal. There are some things I will still do a handwritten letter for. In general though, email is lovely.)

Phone text messages (9/10)
This might seem odd given how much I hate text chat but it's my second favorite method of communicating. It's brief, it's non-intrusive, you can answer at your convenience and I have all the time in the word to think of what to say. Obviously it's not suited to lengthy conversation but it's ideal for short, remote exchanges. Also, if I'm driving or in the middle of a movie or halfway through killing that dragon, a phone text message is something I can see when I'm done and ready to answer you.

Face to face (10/10)
This is the time honored classic and is the preferred way to talk to anyone. You get voice! You get visual! You get body language and facial expression! The fact that we are both in the same place anyway means I am probably not interrupting anything and if I am, I can probably guess it from the body language. This is the ultimate 3-D communication experience and I highly recommend it. If you really want to chat and don't live 500 miles away, text me what bar you want to meet at and we'll chat in person!

I have yet to do video chat but I suspect it would fall in at around 5/10 as an improvement on the phone call. Maybe even 8/10 if it was arranged ahead of time. Perhaps by text message. Rather than meeting you at the bar, I'd just be meeting you on Skype. Presumably we would bring our own beers.