The conversion

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WM Lesser: The Conversion

Section 1: the problems with e-mail

"it replace long distance phone calls!" (227)

"how could you be sure that someone wouldn't sneak through the email door?" (227)

"what was the good of a technologocal form that erased the boundary between intimate friends and total strangers, reducing everyone to a digital printout?" (227)

"I was persuaded that thise snippets of generic e-mail clipped from the bulletin boards of the internet represented what my own friends would sound like if I had to talk to them by computer. I wrongly supposed that the machine controlled its own content, that the medium the message" (228)

Lesser had a fear that she would lose the intimate relationship with her friends because of the generic nature of e-mail. Yes, there are emoticons, but they are generic emotions. Like I said in my last presentation, what we say is only part of what we communicate. Emotion, verbal intensity, and physical presence (body language) are all factors in communication. E-mail is of good use if you are not such an eloquent speaker. You can hide behind it. There is no nervousness visibly present in an email; observable nervousness can be a form of noise and distraction that can hinder communication. That emotional intensity that connected with people is what Lesser was afraid she would lose. From the examples she had seen, email was just a series of snippets. No longer, she feared would there be any real conversation of everyone started using email. Conversations would become fragmented and disconnected. Part of maintaining friendships is actually spending time with friends, not just emailing. There is so much that is forgotten when typing an email or speaking over the phone. The second you physically see the other person, thoughts and memories instantly come back to you; their appearance can trigger a certain memory (i.e. "I remember the last time you wore that shirt, we were driving and then got lost, and then....hahahah etc).

Section 2: the barrier

"when you have something important to say, you're much more likely to pick up the telephone" (229)

Not necessarily.  There are times when something important is best communicated through email. Say you are afraid to ask a prfessor a wuestion reguardng a grade. out offear, you decline asking the question because you do not want to sense the anger and dissapointment that you expect. Fear, you may feel, is a sing of weakness. Email distances and protects you. Once out of the realm of danger, you can remain calm while still communicating the main message.

I am a naturally emotional person; I cry very easily and get upset over a lot of things. Maybe my loose emtions are due to my theatrical background, maybe because I'm a perfectionist and want to get everything right the first time. When I have something important to say, I have to examine the factors: can what I say hurt the other person? is what they are going to say upset me?

If I know what they say is going to upset me, I use the safeguard of email, because I have a hard time composing myself. I recall a horrendous fight I had with my boyfriend the night before Christmas on the Hill. I just walked away from him when I started crying. Once back in my room for a few hours to calm down, I was able to compose a very eloquent electronic letter, via facebook, to him. All the things I had wanted to say but couldn't get out were communicated.

Email can be a mask.

The problem with email is that due to the absence of all those extra-verbal/textual elements, words can be misunderstood. There are no other factors to aid in communication, whereas when you are speaking with a person face-to-face, there can be instant clarification.

Section 3: the conversion aftermath

"soon we were up to three or four times a day" (230)

"I became an email maniac, checking in every hour or so and collapsing with dissapointment if I got the empty-mailbox beep" (231)

"you have to consider before engagin in any communication whether you want to hear from someone as well as speak to him, because he will therefore possess your address...if you launch a missive, you automatically open yourself up to a counterattack" (231)

I remember when I first got a myspace. I became a little excited every time a person commented on my site. Ibgean checking it every hour or so, a tad of dissapointment filling me every time I didn't see that "new messages" bulletin. I guess the comments give people an assurance that they were important enough to receive them. The addiction fades as you adjust to the new technology.

incidently, how many people still use myspace?

One of the benefits to oral communication is that there is nothing tangible in it to hold onto, only memory. Words fade with time, but an email can remain as long as you want to keep it. It can become a reference point or evidence. There is no taking back an email; once its out there, its out there for good. You need to be careful what you put in an email. Moreover, if you just talk to a person and don't give them any contact information, they have no way of reaching you. If you pick a fight over email, the other person can contact you until you delete or block your account. You also have to be careful about who you contact: do you want to hear from them again? Chances are, you might.


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ChrisU said:

While I can't say I've ever consciously used email over the telephone or verbal communication out of fear, I can definitely recall several times when I've used AIM to communicate with someone about a somewhat embarrassing or emotional topic precisely because it gave me the chance to appropriately organize my thoughts (similar to the experience you describe with your boyfriend, I suppose).

On the other hand, I've started trying to avoid AIM conversations with close friends because they're so impersonal that they often lead to stupid fights or misunderstandings. I try to only use AIM for chatter, rather than deep conversation.

For me, email is a formal mode of communication I reserve for business or academics. I rarely (if ever) write a letter-style email to a friend; the only time I use email with my friends is when I want to send them an ecard or something like that.

Interesting points, Daniella.

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