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Ill-communication? Why Tweet flirting works for me

January 27, 2011

Twitter Fail Whale: Failure is an option.Recently I’ve been in a bit of hot water for flirting on Twitter and it set me to thinking.  As @sifu33 (Paul Ricketts) pointed out in his blog the other day, the actual words we say are less than 10% of human communication.  He drew the conclusion that without the more than 90% of communication that we get from inflection (tone of voice) and body language, together known as Non-Verbal Communication (NVC), online relationships may be doomed to fail.

I am a little more optimistic than Paul.  From my experience as a policeman and as an instructor I know that the 90% can be hugely important for full communication.  Fortunately the human capacity for adaptation comes to our rescue when communicating by written media.  The development of punctuation, leading ultimately to ‘smileys’ and emoticons, allows us to indicate inflection and some body language.  It is not as intimate or immediate as actual face-to-face contact, but it can suffice.

Let’s take the example of flirting, since it’s what brought me to this.  Face-to-face flirting is, in my opinion, one of the purest pleasures there is in life, even if it goes no further.  Which in my experience is the case 99.99% of the time.  There is something fundamentally satisfying in allowing your eyes, smile, body and tone to do most of the talking, while you use all your senses to read the other person.  Done right, it doesn’t even matter what you say.

In a situation like Twitter flirting, things are different.  Everything comes down to what you write.  You have only 140 characters.  Luckily we have those smileys and emoticons.  Also, Twitter gives us hashtags which can be used to explain context or substitute for NVCs.  Obviously, the full-sensory element is gone, but what you have instead is the challenge of carefully crafting something elegant and subtle, yet still meaning what you want it to mean.  The Twitter flirt then is a different beast from the real-life thing, but in my opinion it is nearly as good.

Last, but definitely not least, I must apologise to @LadyLoveliness for upsetting her with my Twitter canoodling and for much else besides.  Story of my life: act first, think later, regret at leisure.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul RIcketts permalink
    January 28, 2011 09:42

    Thanks for reading my article, and for putting into words your response, these situations are very difficult and open to being misconstrued. Keep well! @sifu33

    • January 28, 2011 12:57

      Very true Paul. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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