E-mail, blogging, and social cues


Over at Volokh, Juan Non-Volokh Jonathan Adler cites to a Christian Science Monitor article on why e-mails are easily misunderstood. Adler quotes from the article:

First and foremost, e-mail lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode meaning well. Second, the prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures e-mailers to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness. Finally, the inability to develop personal rapport over e-mail makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict.

The article discusses the potential pitfalls of e-mail sarcasm, and the difficulties of conveying nuance in a quickly composed message. The comments to Adler’s VC thus far seem to be skeptical and heavy on sarcasm. This reaction illustrates perfectly a follow-up point: Every one of the CS-Monitor’s points applies in spades to blogging.

Blog posts are often fired off in haste, and they lack the nuances of facial expression. Blog posts are often sarcastic, and sometimes that sarcasm leads to unintended flame wars. (Sometimes it leads to intended flame wars, but that’s another story.) Blog posts are also, like e-mail, often composed with some sense of urgency. And as with e-mail, the fragile fabric of the blogosphere often provides little leeway for social missteps. Change a half-dozen words here and there, and the CS-Monitor story could well be about blogging.

Of course, there’s a flip side. Those of us who are social outcasts introverts may prefer a world without all of those damned non-verbal cues to worry about. Perhaps this explains the number of social outcasts introverts who blog. For example, my esteemed co-blogger Dave. . .

Shoot, and now I’m being sarcastic in a blog post. Um, did he catch the sarcasm? I hope he understands it’s a joke. I’m just kidding, buddy. Really! Damn, how do I make that little happy-face emoticon? Something about punctuation. Oh, there we go:


Whew! Is that better? Sheesh, that was close. I’d better put that emoticon on speed-dial. No wonder everyone always OD’s on damn emoticons . . .

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1 Response

  1. diwakar sinha says:

    hope ur friend understands ur sarcasms er.,jokes should i say? such unsocial castlesses er,. extroverts like u are really pain in the ass ie.,sometimes saying things that are delicate.

    but of course u understand that i am only kidding. and so like u i should make a happy face to prove it.here it goes: :->

    whew that was close, wasn’t it?