General Question

nashish's avatar

Do you think communication technologies like blogs, instant messaging, texting, and the like, have weakened humanity's ability to communicate orally?

Asked by nashish (196points) January 22nd, 2009

A friend of mine explained that she doesn’t like instant messaging or texting, and that she believes that these technologies do weaken oral communication. I’ve been wondering what others think.

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35 Answers

seekingwolf's avatar

Actually, I think they have enhanced it for me.

Now, how I type online is a lot like how I speak. In fact, I sometimes even mouth the words as I type them when I’m IMing, etc. The words are still there…just in a different format.
Any communication that allows me to formulate opinions and statements into my own words and express them accordingly is good, and even if it is online, it still improves my oral communication as well.

Staalesen's avatar

i mostly agree with seekingwolf… But I see how it can damage oral communication if you are using “LOLSPEAK, LEETSPEAK” or what it is called…. Nothing I hate more than people using LOL as a word, instead of laughing….

cookieman's avatar

I debate this with an English teacher friend of mine often. He is very much against these types of communication and is also against the democratization of information through the internet (ie. reviews should be left to professional critics).

I think he’s out of his mind (as much as I love him).

While I’m not an English teacher, I am a teacher (graphic design) and I write as part of my day job.

For what it’s worth, I agree with @seekingwolf . I think with the exception of “LOL-speak” any written communication is good communication. It offers opportunities to practice spelling, grammar, sentence structure, paragraph organization, etc. I also think it helps us slow down (a bit) and parse our thoughts before we blurt them out.

I think this type of communication is much better for the mind than chatting on the telephone.

seekingwolf's avatar

Yeah I forgot to mention that…no LOL-speak.

On the other hand, I do think LOL-speak may affect oral communication poorly, not to mention your writing grammar-wise. One of my friends texts a lot in LOL-speak, and when I tell him something funny, he says “haha lol”. It’s funny and annoying at the same time.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

The LOL-speak doesn’t bother me any. I use it myself. But what DOES irritate me to no end is when people get on boards like this & use text type. It shows lazinss to me. That’s fine for texting, but not on here.

Using technology hasn’t bothered MY oral communication. Because when you’re on something like this, you still have to form the thoughts & words in your mind just as you would if you were talking to someone. It sure hasn’t inhibited MY ability to talk! ;-)

syz's avatar

Oral communication, no. Letter writing seems to have gone the way of the Dodo, though.

wundayatta's avatar

Hmmm. In general, I see no change in oral communication, so if there is no impact, then it can’t be due to electronic communication.

I do think that there is more messaging and email between spouses or lovers and whatnot, but I don’t think that replaces oral communication. It just stretches the range of communication.

I’d like to see any evidence your friend provides for this theory.

amanderveen's avatar

I believe it depends largely on the forums individuals participate in. Those who tend to participate in more “intellectual” forums where the quality of language is higher will tend to have better communication skills, whereas those who participate in forums using largely text-speak will tend to suffer. This isn’t so much because of the medium though – the same thing happens to groups who read quality literature regularly and those who just read comic books. You learn through reading and practicing. Your quality of communication depends largely upon what you read and practice.

cookieman's avatar

@amanderveen: What of those of us who read both “quality literature” and comic books?
I would argue that some comic books/graphic novels are very much “quality literature” – but that’s a topic for another day.

@sys: If letter writing has gone the way of the dodo (which I would agree with), that is a product of the change in common media (eMail) not the content contained therein.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I don’t know. I’m used to hand-written letters, phone calls and face-to-face conversation, but I’m somewhat fluent in l33t. I think it’s all about teaching young people the right context to use each mode of communication. What you’d use in a chat room isn’t the same as what you’d send in an email thanking someone for an interview.

Context is everything. There’s lots of room for miscommunication in fora like this as context can be misconstrued, sarcasm not understood, etc. I’ve seen many a flame war start because people can easily take written words differently than if the participants were face to face and could pick up on body language, tone of voice, and so on.

cookieman's avatar

@aprilsimnel Very true about context.

wundayatta's avatar

@aprilsimnel: I used to write a lot of letters, but never by hand. I had to learn to type, or no one would have ever been able to decipher my letters. Also, handwriting hurt my hand horribly. I don’t know how I wrote all those exams in grad school

gailcalled's avatar

BY “oral communication,” do you mean speaking to one another? Having a conversation is certainly different than what I am doing right now.

andrew's avatar

No, no, a thousand times no.

I grow weary of the whole “technology is a Bad Scary Thing That Isolates People”. I think it’s a really naïve argument. There have always been lonely, isolated people. It just so happens that now, they can commiserate with each other. I find it hard to believe that someone who is shy and socially awkward would magically go out and talk to people had it not been for internet forums and text messaging.

Now, do we have many more avenues of communication now? Yes. Can it be overwhelming? Yes. Are there different nuances to each form of writing and communicating? Yes.

If anything I think what you see is people adapting and developing and playing within these new forms—be it developing the style of short, funny quips in your facebook status to learning that diary entries are really dumb in your blog.

I really don’t see online communication replacing face-to-face or telephone communication, but complementing it, especially for people that aren’t shy.

@cprevite: Despite the fact that I’ve created a democratized site, I agree with your friend. I think the trend now is to overvalue crowdsourced information, but for things like design, you can’t do it by committee.

wundayatta's avatar

Actually, now that you mention it, you could make the opposite argument: technology enhances oral communication, since it brings people together more often. People can organize a meeting in an hour with a text message to all their friends, or an email to a group, etc. Then they practice talking to each other. ;-)

nashish's avatar

:) You all have given me some good feedback on this issue. I’m glad to have sparked a little debate on it.

Nimis's avatar

For the most part, I’d say that it has changed
(more so than weakened) oral communication.
Of course, it depends on the person too.

One particular friend I had was kind of weird about it.
I’d ask her about her day and she’d refuse to tell me
because she was going to write about it on her blog.

Geez. I’m right here. You’re really going to make me
get online to find out how you spent your day?

Good grief.

amanderveen's avatar

@cprevite – I actually would agree that there are some very good comics out there, and I’m afraid I was overgeneralizing a bit since I was on my way out the door.

The way I think of it is similar to the “you are what you eat” adage: if you only eat garbage, your health suffers. If you eat reasonably well, you’ll likely be reasonably healthy, even if you do eat some junk food. Similar idea with reading and writing. If you read at least some “well written” material, it tends to challenge you, expand your vocabulary and improve your grammar, if only because correct word usage and grammar starts to sound more “normal” to you through familiarity. If you only read things that are “badly written”, that’s what will seem normal and what you will tend to write yourself.

I don’t think the medium, in itself, is causing the changes – it’s just a convenient vehicle.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@nashish: Do you think the advent of the written word has weakened humans’ abilities to communicate orally?

nashish's avatar

@La_chica_gomela Not necessarily; in some cultures, like China for example, writing has opened up communication. There were so many different languages spoken in China that it was difficult for people to communicate orally. Therefore the powers at be created a standardized writing system that allowed anyone, no matter their region, to communicate.

Plus, my original question doesn’t reflect my personal belief :P

La_chica_gomela's avatar

The question was rhetorical. I was equating new “technology” with past generations invention of the “technology” of the written word, because in my opinion as a linguist, all these “new” communication channels really just come down to the written word.

SeventhSense's avatar

I feel that there is a place for all forms of communication and there is beauty in the written word as well as the communication. There is soulfulness with letter writing that has a tactile ritual quality. The historical formality of letter writing as well may have had a method. The strict formality and elegance assured that there was no miscommunication. As (@aprilsimnel) mentioned the lack of gesture, body language and tone in our electronic exchanges often necessitates elaboration.

Darbio16's avatar

without a doubt. If something bad happened out in the open, the pool of people that don’t have their noses in their phones has dramatically decreased over the years. Most young people these days can’t go a sentence without say, “Um” “Like” “dude” or “cool”. Let the government control education and private corporations control the news and that’s what you get.

wundayatta's avatar

Yeah, I was really bummed when I saw that Federal regulation requiring teachers to use “dude,” “kewl,” and “errr” at least five times a day. And the new corporate-sponsored textbooks? Unreal!

scarletflame's avatar

No, I don’t think that, because electronic communication is a representation of oral communication. Because you can express more easily and descriptively through your writings, it might even be better than communicating verbally. Written communication is a very important kind of communication. It is not hampering the oral communication ability, but rather exploring the inner creativity and bringing them into communication skills.

gailcalled's avatar

I dunno know. I would have said “speaking and listening to others” rather than “using oral communication.” That sounds boring.

SeventhSense's avatar

Oral communication might be fun with the right partner…:)

gailcalled's avatar

@SeventhSense: I would also use other language for that delicious activity. When I was a young babe, it was fun even with the wrong partner.

SeventhSense's avatar

A bad hummer is better than a good day at work.

Response moderated
gailcalled's avatar

@scarletflame: If your link is an example of electronic communication, it needs an editor, or perhaps a translator. “Communication” is used seven times in four sentences. “Express” needs a direct object. The last sentence is filled with prolix, sometimes nonsensical and incorrect prose; I’ll take “writing” and“speaking” any time.

SeventhSense's avatar

I’m going to start calling you Mrs. Crabtree.

gailcalled's avatar

@SeventhSense: You prefer garble over clarity? Call me Ishmael if you like.

augustlan's avatar

@gailcalled It was an example of spam.

Response moderated

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