Writing about e-mail in the workplace in the New York Times, Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, says ominously, “New findings have uncovered a design flaw at the interface where the brain encounters a computer screen: there are no online channels for the multiple signals the brain uses to calibrate emotions.”
On the other hand, he says, face-to-face encounters are “information rich.” “This neural dance creates an instant rapport that arises from an enormous number of parallel information processors, all working instantaneously and out of our awareness.”
He goes on to say that the opportunity for misunderstanding increases exponentially when e-mail replaces face-to-face, or even phone, conversation. In e-mail, he says, jokes are perceived as less funny, neutral statements are perceived as more negative and positive statements as more neutral. When we send e-mail, Goleman says, “there’s little to nothing by way of emotional valence to pick up. E-mail lacks those channels for the implicit meta- messages that, in a conversation, provide its positive or negative spin.”
What a bummer for us social hermits.
Jo Page, “Reckonings” Metroland, 11 October 2007
I’m trying to put away the clothes that have been pulled out this week, and trying them on in the process.
When I put together some fun outfit, I squeal with delight. It’s fun to create new looks, new expressions.
But there is no way to share them, no way to get feedback. I can write about them, but that is flat. And even a snapshot limits the communication.
Rachel is right. It’s unfair and queasy-making to demand response to meta-messages from others.
But without those messages, and the response metas that reflect, how do we become more?