Ways and Means

When speaking to one another, we have different tonal ranges to draw upon which allow us to add information to the things we’re saying. An angry voice, a chipper scream of joy, a grunt of acquiescence, these are all easily-recognizable and oft-used means of communication built into our other communication, using words to encode what we want to say, and delivering those words audibly.

The media we use, the vehicle that delivers the information we wish to convey, can be as important as the message we’re delivering.

Consider that calling someone has a slightly different meaning than sending a text message. Both are decent ways to express a message, but texting gives the impression of less importance and formality. These days especially, calling someone tends to mean that you’re either hoping to convey important information that you must guarantee they’ve received, or that you’re wanting to make a more personal connection than a text can provide.

There are gradients between our methods of online communication, as well. ‘Liking’ something on someone’s Facebook wall is a low-impact message, while sending them an actual message on Facebook or Twitter is slightly higher up the totem pole. Even more personal or professional (depending on the contents of the message) is sending an email: something that has taken on greater and greater meaning with the dawn of popular social media, just as the phone became more formal as the text message took popular hold.

Being aware of the ways and means we have to communicate is important, because using the right media can emphasize our message, while using the wrong one can overshadow or wash it out. Different messages are appropriate for different levels of formality, and some are better delivered audibly than textually, or publicly rather than privately.

It’s all about communicating clearly, and improving the latency of the messages we put out into the world. If we do it right, we become better at expressing ourselves. If we don’t, we might give the equivalent of the Gettysburg Address, but deliver it through tin cans and a string.

Update: April 7, 2017

It’s interesting watching the relationships and implications of these different means of conversation change over the years, as young people become adults, and as new technologies come into vogue.

I still hate it when people call me on the phone, by the way.