Angry Convo

Photo Illustration/ Dan Letao The Mirror

How many ways do we communicate with one another, besides face-to-face? Via telephone, text messaging, email, Blackberry Messenger, Facebook, just to name a few. How often do we find ourselves using these alternate modes of communication, not just to keep in touch, but to confront one another in serious situations? Maybe too often.

When there is a conflict with a friend, significant other, parent, or professor, perhaps we find ourselves expressing our feelings through some sort of technological medium, rather than in person. But these media are fast, perhaps way too fast. It is much easier to form coherent thoughts when we have the time to think through what we really mean, and how we want it to sound to the other person.

In my experience, I find we resort to texting or Facebook-messaging each other to work through our problems. It is one thing when we are physically separated by distance, and can only talk over the phone or web chat. It is another when we instant-messaging a roommate or housemate, who could literally be in the next room, about an incident last night at the Grape.

Whatever third-party medium we resort to, we are constructing our arguments, or manipulating them. We rough-draft what we really mean to say; then edit, cut, paste, or fit it into 160 characters. The final draft is often the nicer version of our original statements, without the swearing and name-calling.

Face-to-face, it can be difficult to filter what you say in the midst of a heated conflict or argument. You cannot really “edit” what is about to come out of your mouth, especially if you are distressed and are not thinking with a clear head. You generally end up having to rephrase yourself: “That didn’t come out right.” “That’s not what I meant. What I meant to say is…”

I can be at fault for this just as much as anyone else. My best friend and I had a disagreement this summer and, because of our work schedules, could only “talk about it” over email on our lunch breaks. We would go back and forth, and then text each other to say, “Check your inbox asap, I responded.” We used two forms of mediated communication over the span of a few days, to solve a problem that could have been solved in fifteen minutes face-to-face. Problem solved? Yes. But was it necessary to deal with it that way? Still not sure.

Similarly, a friend and her boyfriend were going through a rough patch, and the arguments spanned about a week over BBM. When he saw she was not responding rapidly enough to the messages marked “read” on his phone, they would argue over Facebook messages. Mind you, they are no longer together, and closure from their various arguments only came when they sat down with each other to talk.

I am starting to wonder if this reliance on media to help us to resolve conflicts is more harmful than helpful to our relationships. Maybe typing it out gives us time to think, in which case we can understand the full scope of the problem. The crafted argument would be tidy and thoughtful, and maybe even grammatically correct. But I honestly think our ties would be a bit stronger if we took the time to be with one another, to talk and listen, rather than transmitting our feelings through a third-party device.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.