Miniblog #176: The Frustration of Being Better Online Than In-Person
I’m not gonna lie. If you only know me through Facebook or this blog, you’re not missing out on much. The real-life version isn’t any better. In fact, my speaking ability is significantly inferior to my writing ability. To be clear, I’m neither depressingly sulking over my deficiencies nor pridefully praising my gifts. A plain, honest assessment is that I’m good writer and an above average speaker. All that’s tangential to the point at hand, though. Namely, what I find so vexing is being unable to verbally communicate with the same confidence, discernment, intentionality, and precision with which I write. Because of my learning disability,11.i.e. serious weaknesses in processing speed, phonological awareness, rapid naming, listening comprehension, and verbal learning everything is comparatively fuzzy when I’m listening and talking.2 A good conversation is like a good game of ping pong. You’re constantly going back and forth. But since I’m not mentally quick on my feet, I don’t have adequate time to scrupulously analyze information, purposefully frame the issues, carefully select my words, or the like.2.It’s like the difference between a color TV from 1973 and a HD, plasma TV from 2013. Consequently, nothing is as well-developed nor nuanced while everything is more disjointed and simplistic, which drives me nuts precisely because I know my mind is capable of better. That is, it’s the comparative drop-off that’s so aggravating. It’d be like as an 8th grader playing on the junior-varsity football team in the fall but then playing on the 9th grade basketball team in the winter. Still not bad, but it remains disappointing that the athletic abilities in one don’t just as naturally translate into the other. Also, this frustration is magnified by our context. Ours is a capitalistic, therapeutic culture where our social etiquette values conversation over written correspondence because the former is thought to be more efficient and relational.33.For example, on several occasions life has happened and I’ve had conflict with people. Because I cared and wanted to make sure I communicated exactly what I intended, I took the time to carefully craft my words and the tone with which I wanted to communicate. Yet people see the length and immediately project the worst possible intentions upon my words. It’s assumed that I’m angry, am acting cowardly, or am being passive-aggressive because I didn’t have the conversation face to face. As one pastor once said to me (paraphrasing slightly from memory), “Your telling me this in an email is all I need to know. If you really cared, you’d have said this to my face.” It never seems to cross their minds that the exact opposite is true; I write because I can’t show people I care as much in-person. And to conclude by going meta, I feel stifled because I don’t have, let alone could I ever share, thoughts like this in a conversation.