Describe how an interaction or communication between two people would differ if conducted on the phone or in person, as opposed to online (in an e-mail, for example, or on a social networking...

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Anyone who has ever sent or received an online message or text is probably very aware of the disadvantages of this type of communication, namely the absence of tone, facial expression, and/or body language indicators.  In the absence of these three things, ideas and statements in print are apt to seem more blunt or hateful than perhaps they were really meant.  Consider, for example, a teacher trying to communicate with a parent about a struggling student; a statement such as "Frederick clowns around in class and disturbs everyone around him", while true, sounds somewhat emotional and confrontational, and of course, has the added disadvantage of now being in the hands of the receiver, who can print it out and show it to anyone and everyone he or she wishes.  A skillful communicator could use tone of voice (and certainly better word choice) to soften the impact of sharing Frederick's transgressions via telephone, and in person, the use of body language and facial expression would also be helpful indicators that the teacher is there to help solve the problem, not pick a fight. 

Another problem with online and/or cell communication is the ease with which one can send a hurt or angry message without immediately having to deal with the recipient's response.  For angry parents, this may mean sending an email they later regret as they continue to work with their child's teacher; in any personal relationship, of course, where conflict occurs, this type of communication is a tempting way to "vent" at someone with angry or hurtful words which, once sent, will be out there forever. 

It will be interesting in the coming years to see what sociologists, psychologists, and others who study human behavior learn about how our business and personal relationships have been affected by the major changes in technology of the last twenty years.  


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