Communicating Online

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Both participating and facilitating training is different online than face-to-face. Understanding why and how is important when considering what interactive sessions look like, including, e.g. how long they last.

Communicating and learning online is often more tiring for everybody involved

cat yawning

This is why (adapted from Beth Kanter’s blog):

Online-mediated interaction and communications deprive us a full sensory experience as we are only limited to audio and visual experiences (when using video conferences) or just text. We also don’t have a full understanding of the context. This can make the experience lonely.

When we communicate through a video conference screen, there is a 1.2 second delay.  This makes people perceive that the other person is less friendly or focused. Silence on video calls makes us anxious about the technology compared to natural pauses that happen during in-person communication.

Hyper self-awareness occurs when we are forced to view our own faces while we are interacting with others. We are not used to conversations with another person while we are staring in a mirror.  We are not able to be in the moment with that other person. It feels like there is a wall between us and others. We also feel self-conscious about our appearance.

There is “non-verbal overload” because video conference platforms require us to engage in behaviour ordinarily reserved for close relationships—such as long stretches of seeing close ups of people’s faces—has suddenly become the way we interact with casual acquaintances, coworkers and even strangers.

The inability to create a variety of different contexts in our lives including different social roles, relationships, activities and goals.  When these aspects are reduced, people feel more vulnerable to negative feelings.

Social anxiety for some because we are opening up our homes, our personal spaces (although this can be mitigated with the use of background images or being off camera)

Because we are not in full view of each other compared to face-to-face sessions, it is harder to pay attention because we are tempted to multi-task (reply to emails, etc)

Loss of physical cues like the room you’re in, appropriate physical contact (handshake or hug), other things to look at besides each other’s faces.  We are also sensory deprived of smell and touch.