Story by Meridian Pearson, Opinion Editor
I’m sure we have all heard someone say that communication works best face-to-face, but as a generation who has lived most of our lives with the assistance of computer-mediated communication (CMC), we know that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s a good idea to email someone if you are upset. Other times, a sensitive subject requires an in-person conversation to convey the feelings you have. But how do we figure this out, and how does CMC affect our relationships?
To answer the first question, let’s consider how we decide to communicate at all.
An example: speaking to a professor about a grade you disagree with. The first step is recognizing that you disagree with the grade, and want to either understand or change it. In order to achieve that, you need to discuss it with your professor. You could stick around after class to ask about it, email them to find a time to meet, or countless other options… So how do you choose? It often has to do with your own level of comfort, and what seems most effective (or least intimidating) to you.
Another factor is emotion. If you are genuinely confused about the grade, it may help to speak with the professor directly to convey that. If you are angry and believe you deserve better, a wiser decision might be CMC. That way, you can find the best words without being held back by strong outward emotion that could make or break the interaction. Time is an important factor as well. An email may be the best point of contact if you know you can’t wait until the next class session or office hour to speak with your professor.
We can apply this line of decision-making to romantic relationships, too. Suppose you need to remind your significant other to pick up snacks before game night. You could wait until you see them next, but they would have limited time to run to the store if they forgot. So should you text, email, or call? Depending on your unique relationship, a certain type of CMC might be more appropriate. For example, emails feel formal to me, and a phone call might signify an emergency since I don’t call very much, so a text message would be the perfect choice for a quick reminder from me to my boyfriend.
So how does CMC affect your relationships, if there are instances when it may be the best option? Just like the words you choose, your mode of communication sends a message. As long as you are taking your relationship into account, CMC can assist the communication between you and your partner, not hinder it.