I love sarcasm as a form of communication. The subtlety of a quiet, sarcastic retort can make me smile for days.
But online? The list of people I’ve offended or hurt, many unknowingly, is long. I’ve also left a wake of miscommunication behind me, as people who don’t know me tried to process things I wrote online.
I’m a thinker and a communicator. Present a blank comment field for me to type into and I feel the implicit invitation to teach, clarify, and expound! Sometimes, the topic doesn’t even matter. I’ve been learning, though, that the situation is not always asking for what I want to offer. Instead of furthering the conversation, my lengthy point-laden comments brings the flow to a halt.
Online, I’ve left behind the image of someone who holds their opinions a little too highly, someone pedantic. Instead of experiencing my words as helpful clarification, sometimes people experience them as arrogant condescension. I process quickly. I am a muller where relational issues are concerned, but when it comes to concepts, ideas, and theology, I have something to say right now!
In the past, a challenging email or controversial Facebook post would put my thoughts into overdrive. My mind would begin assembling points, drawing in supporting evidence, mustering sharp logic. Some poor person at the other end of the internet had barely pressed “send,” sharing an emotional response or query when they already had in front of them a well-ordered response that completely missed the emotional heart of their communication.
These failures of communication are my own fault. They find their root in my deficits, and at times, immaturity. (Hopefully growing!) But those shortcomings have been exaggerated–made far worse–by three fatal tendencies that all digital communication share.
Ignore these tendencies and you will find digital communication repeatedly at the heart of broken relationship. If you don’t have a plan for dealing with these, your digital communication will very often violate your commitment to follow the way of Jesus.