Recently 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.
I 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.
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.