Monday, 8 November 2010

The Eyes Have It

If I stood in front of you and told you that you were a 'nutter', you would know what I meant. If I typed the same thing in a blog or on Twitter, you would know what I meant. 

I have learned a very useful thing about the 'social media', and I offer it here to those of you who might be tempted to venture forth with this Fool's Art of ours. 

If I was stood in front of you and I told you that you were a 'nutter', you would hear my words, see my face, see my eyes and you would know what I had meant. You would know me and how I 'am' and would draw the conclusion that the liklihood was that I was being silly with you, pulling you leg - as part of a mutual transaction. You would know because of all the unspoken stuff (unless I meant that you were a nutter, in which case you would also know that incontrovertably - again, because my eyes would say so). 

If I typed in my blog that you were a nutter (unless I framed it with ;) or lol or some other explosion of punctuation abbreviations) you would take that as a serious attack. Why? Because the words on your screen would be all that you have. 

Therefore, the same action can bring with it two or more very different meanings, all hinging on the eyes or lack thereof, of the author, among other stuff.

What we do as bloggers and tweeters is one-dimensional. What we write can be construed in very different ways to how it was intended to be construed, and we as the authors have to be aware of that potential. The danger is two-sided though. As readers, we need to be conscious of how we recieve a person who is in front of us a typed entity only; we have to take them at face value, that is our responsibility as readers. For my part, I have allowed what I have chosen to recieve about a blogger from my misinterpretation of their words to eclipse what I actually know about them from real-life experience, and have responded accordingly and not entirely kindly (and it was a poor thing for me to do, actually). Jokes are only jokes if the person who reads them finds them funny. Equally, a person's motivations and intentions can only be taken from the words of the page. In our Art, there are no eyes, no wry smiles, none of the lines of communication that differentiate fun from attack - and we need to take that very seriously. I have had cause to apologise to a friend today because I inferred far too much from their words on the screen and reacted to them unfavourably. I was wrong, not her - and I have no doubt she will kick my scrawny butt at some point later!

We have words, only words. The blogger has to be take care what those words are, and the reader has to take those words at face value, not add meaning to them that just isn't there.


  1. Welcome to the world of being on the autistic spectrum. I'm actually fairly lucky these days in that I can generally tell what people mean, both IRL and online, but that's because I've had 36 years of practice. I still get it wrong sometimes, and sometimes catastrophically wrong.

    Thankfully I'm in a church with several similar people, and where order and ritual is respected. It makes a big difference. Dragging someone out of their pew to force them up to the communion rail when they don't want to go because they haven't (yet) been confirmed doesn't happen here!

  2. This, I believe is what the Incarnation is all about - God changing the medium from words on a page or spoken through a prophet to "the Word made flesh" with all the nuances and context that signifies.



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