Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Beware of Facebook

I work with many young adults in my clinical practice who are active on social networking sites such as facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn. These sites provide a plethora of opportunities to connect with others. Email and text messaging are similar vehicles that have tremendous positive applications.

But while technology has made it easier than ever to stay up-to-date on your best friend’s relationship or even what she is doing at that this very moment, these modes of contact can also complicate communication.

Written communication lacks the nonverbal data that adds crucial information to an exchange. Tone of voice and body language are the nonverbal cues that add richness to a conversation.

It is important to be mindful that a lack of nonverbal information can cause miscommunication and confusion. It reminds me of a popular grammar book by Lynne Truss. The title of the book plays with the idea that punctuation—in this case a simple comma—can transform our understanding of a phrase. The book is entitled, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” versus “Eats Shoots and Leaves.” The grammar in the title makes all the difference in our understanding of the phrase. Analogously, nonverbals are the punctuation of our verbal exchanges.

Remember the challenges of interpreting emails and text messages because they lack context and nonverbal information. Sarcasm and jokes may be lost on the person reading your facebook post. If you feel confused about a message someone sent you, it may be in the best interest of the relationship to have a conversation about it the old-fashioned way—in person.

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