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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Trouble Communicating in SL – Instand Messages [IMs] A Complicated Process- Seersha Heart Reporting...

I have never put as much thought into an introduction paragraph as I have with this subject.  As research indicates, the receiver of written electronic communication understands emotion conveyed by another person slightly under 60% of the time.  There is one attribute we all share in Second Life.  We all must use written communication to express feelings, observations, thoughts and ideas.  For some, written is the only form of communication used in Second Life.  Other residents combine one of the many voice application with the written text.  Still others combine writing, audio and visual to communicate in world.  That seems like a lot of variations.  Wait there is more to consider, who communicates to a friend who does not understand English very well?  Lastly, studies indicate that sarcasm is the least understood of the written feelings communicated between people electronically.  Our own government [USA] has spent time and research on sarcasm in electronic communication within ongoing studies by the NIH.

The who/what/when/why of electronic communication is ever changing for we as end users.  Different rules for communicating apply in different settings.  There is no single rule book titled “Texting, Emailing and Emoting for Dummies”.  Believe me, I have checked for such a book.  The web is a Hydra of electronic communication advice; select and read one and three more appear.  The good news is that I believe Second Life residents are generally well versed in communicating.  In this article I will cover what I found to be the most helpful advice.

I don’t believe there is a single person who doesn’t know that writing in ALL CAPITAL letters is considered shouting in text.  There are several other considerations when composing your texts.  Words matter to the recipient.  The word you select to open and to close a text as well as the specific words you use should be considered in your communication.  The length of a response you write may convey meaning to your recipient.  Psychologytoday writes that one of the most important items to consider is that the person you are “speaking” to may be in a very different mood than you are when you write them.  This effects how they understand your intentions and your meanings.  Studies have learned that when someone receives an ambiguous or open-ended text, they are most likely to consider the meaning as negative or indifferent.  Ironically the study also found that negative emotions are the most frequently misunderstood communications within individuals electronically.

This is excellent advice, consider the receiver before firing off that IM.  If you want to be understood consider a few factors that affect the receiver.  How long have you known this person?  Research indicates that the less you know a person, the more formal your replies should be to them.  Communicating using IMs is how you manage some very important relationships.  What might you say to this person if you were speaking to them in the same room?  Read your IM before sending it.  How may it be interpreted?  When in doubt, you may always ask a friend for help.  In Second Life that is frequently not possible so doing your best is fine.  Depending on your relationship with a person, know when to go “voice” or “video” with them.

Now you are thinking about your receiver and how they may or may not interpret your words.  When we communicate with someone in person we have the benefit of expressing ourselves with touch, facial expressions, sounds and body language.  Psychologytoday reports that words set less than10% of the emotional tone of our interaction.  That means with our IMs over 90% of the communication tools we have may not be used.  Everyone in Second Life knows that with that less than 10%, there are frequently misunderstandings.  That is perhaps the understatement of the year. [laughs] Let’s look at an example from Psychologytoday from a couple’s interaction.

He: Luv u, 2 2

The challenge of this short IM is that he doesn’t know exactly how the woman he sends this too is currently feeling.  With the brevity here, she may interpret this as he is too lazy to write more, he is too busy for her, or perhaps she will merely feel indifferent.  Here is one suggested response:

He: I was just listening to one of your favorite songs.  I was thinking of you.  I wanted to tell you I love you.  I am happy we are together.  I can’t wait to see you tonight.

The actual response in Psychologytoday is laughable.  [Think the Pina Colada song meets an unpublished romance novel left in a mud puddle].  It is two paragraphs long.  In Second Life SIZE MATTERS with communication.  Here what is the suggested style that instead of short “couples speak”, writing a thoughtful line or two will go a long way toward sending the message you want the recipient to receive from you.  Using their guidelines, I crafted a response using their points of connection.  The important points gleaned from this article is that you may convey body language [sitting on sand], facial expression [smiling], voice [singing] and touching [toes in the sand] using words.  Frequently we are just plain lazy.  We pay dearly at times for that laziness.  Sit for a moment and consider any one of the misunderstandings you have experienced in Second Life.  If you had added a few more words and considered how the other person felt, would things have gone differently for you.  In almost every case the answer is yes for me.  Though we all know that sometimes we try our best and ‘people be crazy’. had some very good suggestions for IMs.  Abbreviations may seem curt or disinterested to some people.  A slightly longer response may make your IM easier to understand.  What punctuation have you used in this particular IM?  Some people fine ending a statement with a period (.) to be unfriendly whereas ending with a semi-colon or no punctuation may lead some to believe it is open-ended.  It was at this point of my research I felt almost unable to IM anyone I knew in Second Life.  So many things to consider before hitting that enter key.  When we respond to an IM we frequently whisper or hear our response in our head.  That response is perfect in emotion tone and delivery.  We need to remember that is not sent along with the words.

Stated the obvious that we frequently forget, Fastcodesi HYPERLINK "" adds some helpful ideas.  “Without the benefit of vocal inflections or physical gestures, it can be tough to tell e-sarcastic from e-serious, or e-cold from e-formal, or e-busy from e-angry. Emoticons and exclamation points only do so much.  (short answer: we’re selfish) and what we can do about it (short answer: make some face or phone time).  A big problem people have when conveying digital emotions is often that they fail to appreciate there’s a problem at all.”  Incredible, I wondered, I am selfish and inconsiderate that is why I have misunderstandings.  Ouch, let’s dial it back just a bit for context.  It’s is all the recipient’s fault!  No that isn’t the answer either.  As with most things in life, time and experience will help us develop our talent or lack of talent.

One situation that how we word our IMs may be very critical between a “great” time and a “should have watched TV” time we spend with another person; romance.  Emoting is considered by some residents to be a great skill, while other residents can’t be bothered to use it.  Emoting is conveying your feelings, actions, observations by using the /me before writing an IM to another person.  When doing chat at a RP SIM, there are rules for how, when and what format written communication must follow such as “turn-based paragraph-roleplay”.  When you are with your special someone, there are no rules.  I would recommend asking the individual how they prefer to communicate.  Do they prefer short responses or longer responses?  Do they enjoy a rapid reply or proceed more slowly?  Truth is, I don’t do this most of the time and most other residents don’t either.  We don’t do the obvious thing because we are embarrassed or uncomfortable asking our date.

Considering the research, the reading and all the ways IMs may go wrong; I believe the best way to approach this is to pay attention to your date [recipient].  Pay attention to how they communicate with you, their style.  Stay out of local chat, this demonstrates how you prioritize your receiver.  For some people that is hard to ignore.  Trust me, there will always be plenty of location chat.  There is only one time to make that first impression IM.  Being attentive is rewarding as it adds to the comfort of communication.  If both people are paying attention to each other, then asking questions such as “do you want…” or “do you like…” or “should we…” become much easier to ask.  Take a moment and consider what I am suggesting to you.  A little time up front, gives the relationship [whether romantic or friendship] a good chance to become a good relationship.  You can keep your own style and be you.  When you have questions along the way, clarify with the recipient.  That is the magic silver bullet as I see it; listen and pay attention.

“Digital miscommunication wouldn’t be much of a problem if we always adopted the most optimistic or generous view of an ambiguous email or text.”  Justin Kruger, NYU

…But we don’t assume the most optimistic or generous view, we assume the negative or the indifferent view.  We don’t pay attention closely and view them only through our own filters.  The phrase “no drama” never fails to make me smile in world.  With all the complexities of our communications how can there be anything except drama?

“Elementary”, said he.  “It is one of those instances where the reasoner can produce an effect which seems remarkable to this neighbor, because the latter has missed the one little point which is the basis of the deduction.”  Sherlock Holmes speaking to Dr. Watson, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” [1901].

Specific to Second Life Emoting:

This is what the Pina Colada song meets an unpublished romance novel left in a mud puddle sounds like to me:
“I’m sitting on the sand where we first met, wrapped in the love blanket you gave me. The sun is going down and I can feel you close to me. I’ve got a big smile on my face, but I have tears in my eyes, wishing you were here. If I were speaking now, my voice would be a little croaky because I’ve been singing too long in the cold, but I know you would still love the way I sound. I’m running the warm sand through my fingers and toes, listening to the beautiful sounds of the ocean going dark. I love you so much and I hope you miss me, too.”

 Seersha Heart [saoirseheart resident]
Photos by Karmaghna Ulrik


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