Whether technology in its most modern forms is advantageous or disadvantageous to humanity has been the subject of debate over the years. On one hand, we are no stranger to how technology can so much affect the various aspects of our lives that the generation of today can become zombies little by little due to the adverse effects of technology not only to the physical but also to the social well-being of a person.
On the other hand, the use of gadgets that bring the World Wide Web right to one’s finger tips has also brought about easy access and improved possibility of interaction. According to Joseph Walther’s Hyperpersonal Model, computer-mediated communication (CMC) is, in fact, more helpful than face-to-face (FtF) communication. This is because, in CMC, one can improve, edit, and develop self-presentation. Let’s explore how this is possible.
Creating an Impression
In FtF communication, one has to employ the effort of dressing up properly depending on the occasion to create an impression. One has to maintain good hygiene, pick clothes that match fashionably, purchase or borrow when the prescribed outfit is not part of one’s closet, and even iron the clothes before wearing them. If one does not follow just one of the many expectations when it comes to clothing, the impression one makes is immediately affected.
And this is only the first step. Add how one speaks and uses nonverbal cues into the mix, and there would be a carambola of characteristics both good and bad. It would be hard to decipher what impressions emanate from one single FtF encounter.
CMC removes all this hassle and goes right to the purpose of communication. Because people do not need to meet physically, all the unnecessary opinions built on how you dress, talk, and move are already set aside to focus on the content of the communication. There will be no distraction on social or emotional influence. No one will be distracted by the colors of your tie and shoes that do not match, mannerisms that are harder to avoid the more nervous one becomes, or the dress that is hard to iron on the hems. The concentration boils down to the topic at hand. From here, through CMC, issues are resolved, and problems are solved more efficiently.
Introductions are a drag sometimes as well. If one volunteers information about, say, achievements, other people will take it as bragging even if this was not the intention at all. It is hard to think of what information to provide when one is asked to introduce oneself. Of course, in social interactions, no one is expected to carry his/her curriculum vitae all the time.
This is easy-peasy in CMC. All you have to do is to create a LinkedIn account, and if people want to know something about your academic and employment history, they just have to look at your account to save both of you the time and hassle of enumerating every single thing that you did for the past five years. Because information like this is accessible and easy to read, communication can, again, proceed to the task at hand because introductions are skipped conveniently. Do you want to know the person’s attitude and behavior? A quick look at his/her Facebook profile or Twitter posts says a lot already.
How communication used to be
Dealing with Groups
There is always a lot to deal with when one is in a group. Which of the people get along together? Which ones should sit together? Which ones always go to the same side no matter what? Which ones do most people like or hate? Which ones pay attention and which ones do not?
How can one possibly express his ideas easily if his longtime crush is sitting right beside him? How can two people agree over a matter if one can always see the other raise an eyebrow every time the first person expresses his/her ideas?
Once again, before the group can deal with the necessary tasks to accomplish as a team, many considerations already arise. The group dynamics already fall even before the team gets to do what has to be done. However, imagine if the group is discussing an issue over a group chat. No one can exchange glances, and no expressions become misinterpreted. CMC helps in avoiding the pressure that comes with group decision making tasks, such as peer pressure to vote on the same issue or intimidation regarding status.
At the same time, group work becomes more efficient because irrelevant interpersonal influences decrease. Everyone in a group chat is focused on the topic being discussed, and no one has to chatter on the side about other things. If they want to, they can create a separate chat box. Because people can multitask online, other activities do not intervene with the goal of the group communication.
CMC also offers the democratic atmosphere that FtF communication unintentionally sometimes take away. In a FtF group meeting, it is unavoidable that some members cannot talk because the more active members are taking much of the time. The ones with louder personalities speak at a higher volume, and others tend to be silenced. In CMC, everyone can verbalize ideas without intimidation.
The Price to Pay for Online Communication
Despite the convenience and communication effectiveness that CMC can offer, like magic and other things that make things better, it always comes with a price. While CMC is helpful in achieving the purpose of many communication endeavors that defy time and distance, it removes the sense of relationship, closeness, and intimacy among the participants of the communication process. It gets things done, but the experience is diminished.
Saying sorry to a close friend might be accomplished, but the genuineness that FtF communication can offer is taken out of the equation. Group work is all finished on time, but the closeness of the group is not the same as doing things together in a room, where people see and laugh with each other. The ends are justified, but the means become beyond secondary. The communication experience is not as real as it should be.
Ultimately, CMC has to be used responsibly, and even if it makes our lives better, we should not forget to still live in the real world.