Step into the coffee shop and you will see (in addition to the overly-enthusiastic couple DTR-ing) students texting, emailing or Skyping. Compared to the students around them talking in person, it’s easy to think they aren’t communicating as well. However, it’s a misconception that technology destroys quality communication. Like any communication method, it can be misused and is not best for every situation. But communication over electronic devices, called computer-mediated communication or CMC, can be as effective as face-to-face communication (FtF). To understand this, we must debunk three CMC misconceptions. Claim one: CMC lacks nonverbals, decreasing communication quality.
Nonverbals go beyond body language, such as the time someone takes to send a message. When nonverbals from FtF are gone, people place more value on the remaining nonverbals, according to the Hyperpersonal Model Theory. Those who communicate better interpersonally are those who use CMC over FtF, according to a study published in Communication Research.
Claim two: Individuals grow closer when they communicate FtF.
People who use CMC share personal information more than those who use FtF, according to a Human Communication Research article. Sharing information about yourself is one way to deepen a relationship.
Claim three: CMC today is only social media and texting.
CMC is broad. Technology gives a voice to those physically unable to speak (like the ALS-afflicted Dr. Stephen Hawking). People separated by distance can use webcams to communicate more effectively than letter writing (such as the 3.6 million Americans living apart for reasons other than divorce, according to a Time magazine article).
Saying CMC is always the right method of communication is inaccurate, but so is saying CMC is always ineffective. Some conversations in the coffee shop should happen FtF, like coffee shop dates. But curling up next to the fireplace and texting your friend can be a great method to connect, grow your relationship and communicate effectively.
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