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Miniblog #176: The Frustration of Being Better Online Than In-Person

by Carson T. Clark on February 4, 2013

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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/doulos05 Jonathan Bennett

    I have the same problem. One middle ground I’ve found is to write what I want to say and then read it to them. I’ve found most people are receptive to that if you preface it with, “Our relationship is important to me, so I’ve put a lot of thought into what I want to say today. I wrote it down so it doesn’t come out wrong, do you mind if I read it?”

  • Brendan

    What are you talking about, sir? I personally find you much more delightful in person, though I’ve been phoning in my personal appearance for the last couple weeks. :P

    • http://twitter.com/carsontclark Carson T. Clark

      Delightful? Perhaps. Insightful? No way.

      Yeah, you really need to step up your game…

  • PhiLiP s. SchMidT

    My dear Carson:
    ‘The Frustration of Being Better Online Than In-Person’ has resonated with me so deeply that I’m doing something drastic. I’ve finally figured out how to determine URL links to individual Facebook threads. So I’m including a link below to MY latest post, a musing on the 1st anniversary of my mother’s passing. I’ve be very grateful if you could take a peek at it when you have a couple of free moments. It’s rather comprehensive, so be forewarned.
    Carson, if someone were to ask me IN PERSON how I feel right now, the best answer I can come up with is: “I’m on a journey.” And if he/she then asks: “What kind of a journey?” I respond with something like: “A journey into the dark night of the soul” or something cryptic like that. Yet…..look at what poured out of me when I WROTE my tribute to my mother! And I don’t even have a learning disability, Carson! It’s just how I’m hardwired, I guess. I feel your angst most acutely.
    Here’s the link to my post:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151433063611007&set=a.361099076006.198390.722406006&type=1&theater

    PhiL {‘•_•’}

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