Hayward: Status schmatus, conversation is still king of communication

Lauren Hayward

I recently received a call from a friend of mine wanting to just “check up on me.”

He was wondering if I was feeling alright or if I was just really homesick. I assured him that I was fine, and in fact having a wonderful time in Ames. The thing that had prompted his concern was a few recent status updates on Facebook. One read that I missed Australia, the other that I was upset about missing out on some incredible music festivals back home.

“They’re full of hate” he said.

And as I reflected on my digital mood, it would appear that I am sad and in need of cheering up, but in reality they were flippant comments that were not indicative of my emotional state at all.

Facebook really has changed our world, for me it is an invaluable resource to keep up with friends and family back home, but really it is human to human interaction that is important when communicating effectively.

We know that much of our communication is nonverbal or expressed through tone, intonation and other audible clues, so it is easy to see how a sarcastic or simple status update can be misconstrued.

But there is so much more room for misunderstanding on Facebook. For example, my friend recently liked a group called “Don’t flatter yourself; it was a friend request not a marriage proposal.” I smiled to myself thinking about how true this sentiment is. Either as a requestee or a requester, there is some ambiguity about what a friend request really means. And if you’ve drunkenly added a person on Facebook, but have no intention of being their friend in real life, seeing their name on your news feed or on Facebook chat can induce mild groans of regret to feelings absolute dread.

Equally if you’ve got your eye on someone, the temptation to stalk is almost too hard to resist. But learning everything about a person you don’t actually know can make conversations awkward; you probably don’t want to mention their upcoming birthday or sister’s recent relationship breakdown unless they’ve told you about it first.

Facebook has certainly caught a lot of people out as well. I was taught as a young adult that if I was doing something I wouldn’t tell my parents about, I probably shouldn’t be doing it. I think a much better lesson in morality should be that if you don’t want it to be announced on Facebook, you probably shouldn’t do it. This is simply because the odds are stacked against you, and someone somewhere is likely to mention it on your wall, make it their status or post a photo of it and then several hundred of your nearest and dearest will definitely know.

So, for as much as the social network has allowed us to connect with long lost friends, talk to those living far away, keep up with all the dramas and parties of college life, there still aren’t enough sideways smileys to beat sharp sarcasm, subtle flirting or substantial conversation.