Text Rage => Interview with Corinne Gregory
1) What are the main differences between face-to-face communication and communication through technology (chat rooms, instant messages, text messages)?
As we progress from “in person” communication, to phone, to hand-written words, to types, each step eliminates one layer of interaction that we use to decipher what is being “said.” When we are face-to-face, we use not only the verbal information we hear, but also the non-verbal communication signals (body language, voice inflection, etc) to communicate our message. When we drop down to phone conversation, we lose non-verbal signals and have to rely now on content and tone.
By the time we are down to the level of tech-communication, we now have ONLY the typed content, which, in and of itself, doesn’t carry much emotion, but is VERY literal. When all we have is “ink” to communicate, we have to be very careful what we say. However, because of the sterility of the environment, the distance between parties, and often the anonymity, people tend to be less careful with their words and things can escalate quickly.
2) Do you agree that there is more chance of conflict, anger, and rage through technological methods than face-to-face communication? If so, then why?
It’s one thing to be insulting or harsh with someone in-person; when we say something hurtful or in anger to someone in person, we see the reaction immediately. Often, too, we know the person, at least remotely. But, online, we can say what we want, to whom we want, and there are no repercussions to us for our words. That allows us to be more free with what we say – particularly if we are responding to something that sets us off.
3) Why do Generation X and Y prefer technological methods of communication than say Baby Boomers? Have we (the under 40 crowd) lost our way in the art of conversation?
Technology has not been our friend when it comes to interpersonal relationship skills. (I actually wrote about this in a post called the “Anti-Social Social Media”). We are increasingly used to being connected with people in this artificial means, that we are losing the art of civil discourse. In a real conversation, we have to see it through, in all its nuances. Even if we are angry with someone, there is a back-and-forth dialog that has to be addressed. It’s hard to just walk away from someone on the middle of a conversation.
However, in the online world, if you don’t like what someone says, you just press the “off’ button and they are gone. Likewise, if you say something harsh or cruel to someone in person, you have to accept the consequences – hurtful reactions, perhaps the threat of physical response if you are over-the-top. But, online you can just let fly…what are they going to do, come to your home and get you?
In the case of Josie Lou Ratley and Wayne Treacy, the answer is “yes.” That can, and DOES happen. But we don’t take responsibility for what we say online as much as we MUST offline.
4) How do you define text rage -and- how bad is it in the real world (in your own experience)?
True rage itself isn’t as prevalent as it appears from some of the major cases. But, overall incivility and anger IS increasing. And that is still troublesome. It’s like we are boiling the frog in cold water…the more “anger” and hate-speak that you are exposed to, the more that behavior becomes normal and acceptable. So, I can see more incidents of text rage occurring because it’s becoming more expected and more “normal.”
5) What is the solution to combating text rage - remedial communications' college courses?
No, the answer is prevention. Just like anti-bullying policies that really only address the problem once it IS a problem, remedial programs dealing in online communication will only put a bandaid on the situation. We have to teach our young people pro-social skills that help them understand that dealing with people in a respectful, courteous way is not only appropriate, but expected. And that means all the time, whether offline or online. We have to retrain civility because we’ve gotten so lost in how to be decent with one another. We know this kind of education works, based on research that is available, and solves several problems simultaneously because it’s focusing on prevention, not management and mitigation.
One other problem with courses in college is that you really need to “sell” it to the students on what’s in it for them to be civil. If you can’t make it relevant to them on why they should care, it won’t matter. There’s no immediate benefit that can be measured by the students to teach them to “be nice” online. You have to make it part of their M.O. early on so that you don’t have to offer remedial training later. Having said that, however, I do show in my latest book (“It’s Not Who You Know, It’s How You Treat Them”) the upside of treating people in business with courtesy and respect, so at that point there is a benefit, and that’s when it can be re-taught.
Corinne A. Gregory
Speaker, Award-Winning Educator, Author of "Putting 'Civil' Back Into 'Civilization'"