David Stuart

OPINION: Confusion reigns when messages lack context

WORDS. You read them as you will. Taken on face value, you'd generally think little.

Taken literally, well, you'd think she'd be apples.

But put words into a text message. No context. No non-verbals. No emotion.

All presumption. All surmising. All imaginings.

OMG! Certainly nothing to LOL about!

No other medium of communication has ever been as vile or as dangerous as electronic messaging.

Be your chosen vehicle SMS, iMessages, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Viber, WhatsApp, whatever … the risk of misinterpretation, unintentional offence and skewed perception is perilously astronomical.

Words, in context and when delivered as intended, can be brutal and devastating weaponry when proffered by the pen or speech of someone who knows how.

So take them out of that context and just watch a conversation explode.

Now, to be fair, I must fess up to being one of those people who once mistook LOL for lots of love instead of laugh out loud (and yep, you can imagine the awkward moments which eventuated from that wee error - they are for another column), and I cannot help but cringe at the use of u instead of you, r instead of are, and tks instead of a nice thank you.

But the English language is rich with double entendre, and sarcasm is a staple in the text message vernacular.

In longer-form prose, there is scope for a style of writing that almost negates the need for the unspoken signals of body language and inflection.

But in this short, sharp, abbreviated conversation - which traverses vast distance via palm-nestled devices in a language, which merges the code of Morse with the emotion of Shakespeare - the non-words are left to presumption and imagination.

And what's worse, so adept have we become at speaking and writing in text form that the questions and furrowed-brow confusion has often spilled into "real" life, tainting our conversations and casting a shadow of confusion and even suspicion over what should be a pleasant and amiable exchange.

So in tapping your words, in drawing your conversational bow, choose carefully.

In poor choices there is peril; in misinterpretation there is conflict - or all-out war.

Neither are fabulous.


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