The Value of Online Chats

Before I start this blog post, I would like to write a bit of a disclaimer: I find online chat systems very useful. I use several of them and I use them regularly. They’re a great facilitator for social interactions in reality, they’re a great way to keep in touch with people who move far away and they’re a useful tool for checking in on people who you haven’t seen in a while. Having said all that, I’d now like to proceed to tear them down with a string of criticisms.

As time goes by, I find myself less and less inclined to talk people online. The reason? Speaking face to face is just a much deeper and more rewarding experience. Lovely and touching conversations I’ve had with people stick with me for years and years – yet it’s extremely rare for an online chat to have the same sort of impact, no matter how positive it may be. I’m not saying that it never happens, but it’s just a lot harder to feel invested in words on a screen.

Then there’s the fact that it’s a lot trickier to communicate directly online. For many people, it’s hard to properly convey the emotion that they want to express, because they don’t have the help of body language or tone of voice. I’ve had a few instances where people have been concerned that I am either annoyed with them or deeply unhappy about something, when the reality has been that there’s no subtext whatsoever. And I’m equally as guilty of it: I have worried people have been upset or unhappy, when really they’re just quickly messaging because they’re busy with something else.

I suppose I think it’s kind of like this: you can watch or a film or you can read that films plot synopsis from Wikipedia. In both instances you gain the same information, but the experiences are vastly different. One will be fun and memorable, the other gives you the information and maybe engages you to some extent, but ultimately doesn’t provide you with much to engage you on an emotional level. The only issue is, that it’s a lot easier to find the time to read a synopsis than it is to watch a whole film.

So while I definitely appreciate the convenience of online chatting and wouldn’t be in touch with some of my friends without it, I also try to save as many conversations to be shared in person as possible and don’t apply too much significance to digital correspondence. It’s probably healthier this way.

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