The Online Communication Cycle

‘Why are you writing in English’, Simone asked me. She had told me Victor had read my blogs about politics, business and IT on the internet which were sometimes in English. I told her I had two reasons for this: it gave me a broader audience and having worked for an English company where I learned to write compact English and liked doing this. ‘And why don’t you focus on one topic, you are writing about such a lot of different topics’. I answered: ‘Having studied Sociology and having worked a long time in IT I have always been interested in how the world was changed by IT, not only from a business point of view but also regarding their personal lives. And as Lecturer Information Management I also teach students about this and tell them about my personal experiences during the lessons and my view on this.’

She wanted to know more about my visit to Sedona and how I met Victor so I told her about the Resurfacing workshop and our discussion on the airport waiting for our planes because of the heavy snow delaying our flights. The reason I participated in this workshop was that I wanted to investigate if I could use this format as a lecturer. ‘I like to do things which in first instance don’t have anything to do with my work but there is always a new perspective which helps me further developing my thoughts. Just like the conversation I had with Paul last week on his startup: I was not sure yet how I could use this but I feel this could in the future. I explained her what we discussed the week before.’

Simone replied: ‘The problem with most people nowadays is that they are confused because of the fact so much is changing all the time. The media are focusing on hypes which are coming up quickly but also ending quickly and soon forgotten. And as most of these hypes have a negative background most people think were are going in the wrong direction. But if you look at it from a scientific and historical point of view we are steadily doing better al the time. The Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker Hans Gosling made a lot of statistics in which he proofed were are doing better than most people expect, he died a few days ago, a terrible loss for science.’

‘Victor’s communications paradox has to do with the fact that the way we interact and communicate with our environment is rapidly changing and that our mind is not able to cope with this, we are not in the drivers seat any more but constantly reacting to what’s happening around us. Direct one to one communication is now being replaced by new ways of communication and the big difference with the old way of communication is that in the past, when you were communicating with someone, the message was key and you were using verbal and none verbal communication to interact. Now, while the internet has become available you can easily communicate with all people allover the world using channels as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat.

This way of communication is new for most people (Facebook exists only 13 years) and we don’t know yet what the real impact of communicating through these channels will be. This impact can be both positive, your tweet or post can go viral and become a hype, or negative in the sense that a wrong post can change the way others see you. That’s why mots people have their personal brand in mind when they communicate and respond when communication is not in line with this. That’s the reason most people don’t create content themselves anymore but are constantly responding and having an opinion on what others have to say by liking, sharing and replying, I call this spinning.’ She showed me a picture from Victor’s book how this has changed.’

‘As you can see in the picture online communication is more complex than direct communication and not everybody’s has the skills and is able to manage this process successfully. It starts with having a good picture of your identity and this can, especially when your young, become a big problem: when receiving negative feedback this can make them very unsure. Channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become very important and have big impact on the way we communicate and the way we receive information.’

I responded: ‘True, and that’s why, according to me, you cannot talk about social media anymore as most people do. Technology made communication channels available and these have completely changed the way we communicate with each other and this development has just started and already high impact. From a sociological point of view this new ‘Online Communication’ can never replace ‘Direct Communication’ but it has changed it. And it will never change back to the days before we got our own PC or Smartphone, it’s here to stay. And what we need to learn our students now is what the value of these ways of communication can be, what’s is their potential.’

‘Take for example the development of popular music since the fifties of the last century when we had only the radio and television and the LP was not there yet. Songs were about love and personal communication and the message in a song was always very clear and easy to understand. This has completely changed, it’s not about the text of the song and the music anymore but about the artist and his brand and management taking care the artist is in the news all the time. Ask someone what a song is all about and nobody knows.’

‘I have studied Sociology, what did you?’, asked Simone. ‘Me too’, I said ‘but that was more than 30 years ago before I started working in IT, I’m not familiar with the latest developments’. ‘But if I read your blogs I’m not listening to an IT guy talking but to a Sociologist who is talking about the changes in society due to the Internet, why don’t you write something from your old Sociology background, I think the publisher I work with would be very interested’. She is right, I thought, what I’m writing about is not a structural analysis but just a reflection on what I experience and read somewhere, a more structural approach using the sociological body of knowledge would make sense.

While drinking our wine we discussed what an interesting subject would be from a sociological point of view and agreed after some time it would be interesting to look how our view on the world around us has changed since the massive introduction of new ways of communication made possible by the internet. ‘Interesting subject’, I replied to her, ‘I will think about it and let you now how I would approach this but this will take time’. ‘Take your time, she smiled, ‘and in the meantime let me know once in a while how you are doing…’.

About Gerard Geerlings

Gerard Geerlings, socioloog en schrijver, schrijft online over wat er zoal aan de hand is op het terrein van de digitale samenleving, de troost van kunst, praktische levenskunst en de actuele politiek.
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