Thoughts: On the differences in virtual communication, part I

As you might have remembered in one of my previous posts regarding the exact definition of virtual, it can actually extend to telephone conversations, not just SMSes or online chat. Indeed, not existing in a uniform physical location as someone else yet being able to actively connect or interact with that person is a basic demonstration of the concept of virtuality. Hence this post will be my discussion on some aspects I perceive to be differences between virtually communicating with someone and actually doing so in real life.

I will discuss how virtuality is a subset of reality in terms of interaction with other people. What this means is what I have discussed before – virutality being the essence of reality. This qualifies it, in certain ways, to be ‘reality… but lacking some things’ – lacking body language in some instances, lacking emotive facial expressions in others, and so on. Thus I say virtuality is a subset of reality, or “{V} ⊂ {R}” (proper subset). So if we discuss ‘lacking body language’, we can say that there is virtually (no pun intended) no way of detecting body language through someone’s text message. Or even through a telephone call! Body language provides critical information about the other party’s hidden/unintended or intended messages, that enable us to understand the other party’s opinions, feelings, thoughts and character. Or if we discuss “facial expression”, it’s bound to be the same thing. It’s difficult for a frame of a person with hunched shoulders, a slow response, and a general lethargy to not go together with a downcast or tired face. Essentially we are picking up signals about facts beyond speech or words.

Which brings me to a vital question: are non-verbal forms of communication really needed if one thinks he/she can bring across his/her message or information clearly without meeting face to face? What do facial expressions and body languages achieve in all honesty? What is the actual need? 

This brings us to the core question of the different purposes of interaction and communication – topics too boringly huge to cover anyway. Personally? Don’t think I’ll be able to discuss properly… But to summarise it can be said that communication and interaction are part of a larger structure of human needs which Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs classifies in a not too controversial manner. Amongst the various tiers necessities for survival are at the bottom of the tier – indicating that one reason for interaction and communication is survival, to get across vital information that ensures protection and continuity of the self or the community. Later on there are things like shelter, society, needs for a relationship and sense of achievement, of which only ‘need for love/relationship’ might seem relevant. They belong to the third tier, titled ‘Love/belonging’. One crucial purpose of interaction and communication is to develop interpersonal relationships that go beyond simply survivalist attitudes. Perhaps our answer lies in looking at this area. What do we really need for interaction to occur at a level that enables the deepening of our relationship or to understand the other party better?

To be continued…

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