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Bringing The Personal Touch To Online Communication

March 31st, 2015 by

Emulating real-time interaction is the key to worthwhile online communication. Here are five ways to bring back the human touch.

As we are social animals, how has our communication changed now that we do it over the internet? Most of us have sat there, staring at a sparsely-worded work email, trying to work out if the sender is being terse, or if they were just busy (spoiler: it’s usually the latter).  It’s similarly difficult to discern tone in a text message or tell when someone’s being ironic in a Tweet.

Once tone, gestures and facial expressions are removed, we quickly find ourselves scrambling to work out what is *really* being said. Sometimes the only response to a puzzling email or text is to pick up the phone and call the sender, not because there isn’t enough information, but because we need something else, something less concrete: we need to hear the information in the context of tone.

This behaviour makes sense when considering the importance of non-verbal communication: only 7% of the meaning derived from face-to-face conversations about attitudes and feelings comes from the actual words. The remaining 93% is all about the voice tone and body language, according to research from UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian.

So what’s the solution for improving online communication? The answer: emulating human interaction. “There’s a human toll in shifting our conversations online, undermining more meaningful connections. In important, yet sometimes subtle, ways, how we communicate today is out of sync with how we naturally communicate best,” neuromarketing expert Douglas Van Praet wrote in FastCoCreate. “The meteoric rise of emojis speaks volumes of the need to add affective clarity and color to our sterile digital statements. To qualify the missing tone users can display their smiley face in lieu of their smiling face.”.

To further the case for using emoji in the workplace, research shows people are happier at work when they get on with their co-workers. Close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, Gallup has found, and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. So on that note, here are five fun and clever ways to help you inject some human emotion into your online communications:

1. If you want to take quirk to the next level:

Emojimo is an app that replaces your words with emoji, swapping them automatically as you type. Or better yet, Memoji encourages you to “animate and emojify” yourself by creating your very own personal emoji. This means taking photos of yourself re-enacting the emojis and then using those in communications. You can even create them as animated GIFs!

2. If you want to capture the moment:

One of the best things about digital communication is also the worst: it sticks around forever. Sometimes it’s nice to send a message that disappears after a few seconds, just as if you were to speak to someone face to face. Enter Snapchat! “The rapidly discarded ephemeral snaps force focus on the shared feeling, not the shared photo,” said Van Praet. “Snapchat is prompting a shift to sync up the artificial divide we’ve created between our online personae and our real life experiences.”.

3. If you want to sound smarter:

Words U is an app that changes the words you use into fancier ones. The app thankfully lets users look up definitions of the new words (erroneous swaps do happen, as words sometimes mean two things), and there’s even a gamification element as you ‘level up’ once you have learned a certain number. Words U hopes to get the app into classrooms so it can be used for teaching, and maybe even create French and Spanish versions.

4. If you want to keep things private:

Pair is the perfect app for couples who want to keep their cutesy – or bickering – messages off their Facebook walls or Twitter feeds. Pair lets users exchange messages, photos, sketches and locations, and there’s even a “thumb kiss” feature where the phones will vibrate if both parties have their fingers in the same place at the same time.

5. If you’re a delicate sort:

Clean Reader is an app that replaces all the bad language in your text with more innocent options. Options for cleanness range from “clean” to “squeaky clean” – so “damn” becomes “darn”, and so on. “We had young readers in mind when we first started,” co-founder Jared Maughan told ‘The Guardian’. “But we discovered there were a lot of adults who would rather not see profanity in the books they read.”.

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