Stream of consciousness in chat

I have become conscious of the evolution of my instant messaging technique. It seems to me that as we evolve and adapt to the medium, there are several significant changes that we make in terms of our communication in order to make it more efficient. Without looking at specific linguistic issues like the shorthand vocabulary that has developped (which I don't really support, anyway), I think the structure is especially interesting to examine.

For example, I seem to speak in much shorter sentences, for the most part, when I chat. Furthermore, I break up sentences into multiple messages. This isn't a conscious decision, but it's an attempt to emulate actual speech, I believe. By turning instant messaging into more of a stream-of-consciousness medium, it is possible to ensure a constant flow of information much like actual speech. It's quite impressive when two good chatters speak how they can almost convey as much information as they would if they were face to face.

The second element is emoticons and other demonstrations of emotion. This is very important if we are to make it into a medium which is in fact human at its root. Even if a person is not overtly emotional in face-to-face conversations, our eye has a wonderful ability to discern emotion and empathy simply be examining minute changes in the human face. You only need to watch an Ingmar Bergman movie to understand that, by looking at the face, you can often times understand what the person is thinking without even having them express their emotions. For the most part, this is done subconsciously, but it's a very important part of human interactions. In chat, much is the same. In order to not feel as though we're talking to the wall, emphasis on emotions are somewhat important. It has amazed me how thrown off I was, when speaking to a person online for the first time, that this person used very little emotion in her manner of chatting. I just kept thinking to myself "what the fuck is wrong with you? Are you ok? Are you suicidal? Why do you sound like a bot?". We can turn this medium into one that can effectively convey a message, but I think it requires practice and some form of consciousness of what we are trying to achieve.


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