Internet Communication

writing with quill vintageRecently a group of online friends and colleagues were discussing how each of us hates to talk on the phone.   Each of us also had been under the impression that we were weird because of that, anomalies in the feminine world.   We were relieved we had all found each other.  Then one of us pointed out that  she has read that internet forums are mostly dominated by I’s and N’s (INTJ, INFJ, INTP, INFP).  That’s the Myers Briggs test, and the Myers is for introversion and the N is for Intuition vs ‘Sensing.’

That makes sense to me. People who hate email and love phones and face to face meets will not flock to email/type heavy exchanges as much as we IN types will.   Something else I have noticed is that if and when ES… types do get to an internet forum, they will try to make everybody skype. ;0D

They will also object to discussions that contain rich exchanges of ideas, calling them debates, and they will get their feelings hurt more often by those written exchanges, explaining to everybody else that we all have to be more careful in online communication because you can’t see facial expressions and hear tone and it’s so easy to get feelings hurt and take offense, etc, etc.  You’ve probably heard this, too, and perhaps, like me, believed it was implicitly true even though you knew that you didn’t get your feelings hurt so easily over written communication, nor did you take offense or see the same perceived rudeness or harshness that they did.

I’ve thought about this for a while, and I am just no longer convinced, at all,  of the evils of communication via email or computer screen-  I certainly do not agree that all but the most basic of conversations should be face to face or at least by phone (not text).  There’s another way to approach the so called ‘ease’ of getting hurt feelings and taking offense over email discussions.

  • If people will simply commit not to assume the worst about the other person’s intentions, 90% of all incidents where somebody gets their hackles up over a written exchange would evaporate.  I not only do not agree that this is too much to ask or expect, I think anything less than this is a sin.

Written communication simply cannot be inherently flawed due to lack of tone or expression, either.

  •  Paul and the other apostles communicated quite serious stuff to believers in the first century via the written word and it worked very well for them/


  •  In fact, everybody communicated very well and quite regularly via the written word until the 20th century. Certain of the Founding Fathers wrote reams of letters to each other over decades. Were they not understanding one another? Were they prone to having tiffs and hissy fits over misunderstandings? No,

People wrote letters daily, and yet they managed not to freak out, get their feelings hurt on a regular basis and take constant offense.

woman-writing-a-letterI have shared this recently with others and I am told that it was different because they were used to it, and “yes, it would be fine if people would not ascribe ill intent but that’ s not how people read emails.’

Phsaw (and if you need tone and facial expression I write that with a grin and a cheerful voice).  We can do better than this.  We could be used to it if we wanted to.  And I am not smiling anymore as I point this out, we ought not ever to be complacent about assuming the worst of other people’s tone and intentions without seriously good cause.  It’s not just a little ‘quirk,’ it’s not just the way it is so we have to accept it. It’s a sin. It’s not okay. That we are not to assume the worst and presume ill motives is not a guideline for living that we get to ignore just because said communication is in written form. It’s wrong.

It is not acceptable to assume the worst of other people’s intentions, motives, and meaning- that is not how you would want to be treated.  The golden rule tells us to do unto others as we would be done by. Just as we want your words and conversations heard with charity and by somebody who is making an honest attempt to understand rather than seeking offense,  so do those who prefer written conversations prefer to be heard with charity by those making an honest attempt to understand.

1 Corinthians 13 says that love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered (not provoked), it keeps no record of wrongs.  We would do well to apply this to written conversations as well as face to face interactions.

The online Pulpit Commentary says of this verse:

Love, when it is perfected, rises superior to all temptations to growing exasperated, although it may often be justly indignant. But, as St. Chrysostom says, “As a spark which falls into the sea hurts not the sea, but is itself extinguished, so an evil thing befalling a loving soul will be extinguished without disquietude.” Thinketh no evil; literally, doth not reckon (or, impute) the evil. The phrase seems to be a very comprehensive one, implying that love is neither suspicious, nor implacable, nor retentive in her memory of evil done. Love writes our personal wrongs in ashes or in water.

Gill’s Commentary:

or as the word here used will bear to be rendered, “does not impute evil”; reckon or place it to the account of him that has committed it against him, but freely and fully forgives, as God, when he forgives sin, is said not to impute it; or such an one is not suspicious of evil in others, he does not indulge evil surmises, and groundless jealousies; which to do is very contrary to this grace of love.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

thinketh no evil—imputeth not evil [Alford]; literally, “the evil” which actually is there (Pr 10:12; 1Pe 4:8). Love makes allowances for the falls of others, and is ready to put on them a charitable construction. Love, so far from devising evil against another, excuses “the evil” which another inflicts on her [Estius]; doth not meditate upon evil inflicted by another [Bengel]; and in doubtful cases, takes the more charitable view [Grotius].

I am not saying that we have free range to say what we want regardless of how it might come across to others, but the thing is, that side of email and other internet communications has already been addressed at length and everywhere. The idea that the reader has great responsibility as well not to impugn something ugly to the words she reads I have not often seen addressed. Nor have I seen it pointed out that this crippling need for tone and facial expression is actually a very, very recent thing, so perhaps the problem is not with on screen communication, but with ourselves as products of a culture and generation I don’t think anybody should be setting up as a standard.


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  1. Tim
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I really, really like this post. Incidentally, I think one of the best advantages of written communication is the ability to go back and see exactly what was said. I’d argue that spoken communication tends to be less clear (perhaps because people rely more on non-verbal cues and therefore feel less need to be precise verbally) and it’s certainly harder to remember in detail than written text.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted March 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I find spoken communication far less clear and more likely to be remembered differently by the various participants.

    • Tim
      Posted March 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Forgot to specify that I am indeed an INTJ (only moderately N, but hardcore ITJ).

  2. Posted March 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I am one of those I-types, and I don’t like Skype either, I would rather read and write.

  3. Posted March 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post! I do like Skype for communicating with our adult children who live far away (Korea and Idaho) but I prefer email to telephone anyday, my favorite though is an old-fashioned letter in the mail.

  4. 6 arrows
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    An enjoyable read for this INTP.

  5. Thalia
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Add me to the list of people who hate the telephone! For me, it feels as if my brain and the telephone cannot be operational at the same time, and my brain always comes out the loser.

    I’m an ISTJ according to Myers-Briggs, though, for what that’s worth relative to your personality hypothesis.

  6. Elizabeth
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only one who hates Skype too? I think it’s because of that little picture of myself at the bottom of the screen… I’d much rather talk to someone in person than on Skype, mainly because I don’t have to look at myself. The angle of the computer is NOT flattering. 🙂

    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this. I’ve long felt uneasy about people saying “Can I just call you? The written word is SO impersonal!” Well, no, it’s not. God himself uses the written word to communicate with us, as you pointed out. It’s not a sin to have easily hurt feelings but it is a sin to attribute bad motives to people when really you’re just sensitive. I have to remind myself of this often when around some of my blunter friends, not to mention my husband, who is not tactful but is VERY well-meaning and loving.

  7. Amity
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone articulate that point of view. But of course, of course that’s how it is. What a refreshing post!

    I also prefer e-mail to telephone, but I’d rather be face-to-face in most cases. I’m always nodding when John writes that he has much more to say, but he’d rather say it face to face. Maybe he was a slow writer, too.

    I’m an IN-can’t-ever-remember-the-last-two, and I once made the mistake of trying to communicate some very serious things with an ES-don’t-know-the-last-two. Yikes. Made a bad situation much, much worse, for years. Sadly, the reason I tried it was that whenever I tried to communicate with that person face-to-face, it turned into bullying-by-vapors and I just couldn’t keep up.

    I’ve also had my feelings hurt in an online forum, but I’m pretty sure it was because I was teeming with pregnancy hormones and wasn’t the other person’s fault at all. It took me a long time to figure that out, sadly.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted March 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      “Bullying by vapors.” I love that.

      • Amity
        Posted March 6, 2014 at 5:23 am | Permalink

        Been reading Georgette Heyer. 🙂

  8. Posted March 6, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I totally agree that there is no reason why written communication can’t be far more nuanced and clearer than verbal communication, and in fact much prefer to handle any particularly tricky conversation in writing, even with my husband. And also the not assuming the worst of what other people say–well, that would stop about 90% of arguments right there, whether online or in person.

    There are a couple of other reasons why online discussions tend to get out of hand. The immediacy is a big difference. With correspondence you have to stop, find your pen and paper, write slowly–the very process forces you to take more time and therefore there’s a better chance of reflecting on what you say. Further, online discussions are generally open to a large group of loosely-associated and not really acquainted people, who are much more likely to misunderstand and misinterpret each other than a group of people who actually know each other. So those are valid differences in modern times, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be overcome by the discipline of thinking, listening, and being charitable.

  9. Posted March 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Another INTJ signing on to this perspective. I hate using the phone and avoid it whenever possible, not because I don’t care about the people calling (although that might be the case sometimes) but because I just don’t like using the phone. I’m training my children to answer the phone so I don’t have to. 😉

    I also notice a generational thing. My grandparents (all 4 still living, praise God!), all call me, even the ones who actually use email. They call everyone (friends, family) since it’s their preferred method of keeping up.

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