There was a time with no smart phones—only dumb ones.
Before that, people grew up without computers. How is that even possible?
Now we communicate as much on phones and computers as we do face to face. When we do so, we need to think carefully. What are we saying and why? Who is receiving this message? How are we sending it?
You’ll find answers to these questions and more in this chapter. Hop on! Let’s take a ride through cyberspace.
Understanding the Situation
Whether you are writing an instant message, sending an email, creating a video, or posting other media, you need to think about the situation. To do that well, you need to consider these elements:
As the sender of the message, are you a student, a friend, a relative, a storyteller, a musician? What role do you have in sending this message?
What is your message about (topic), and why are you sending it (purpose)? Make sure you understand what you are saying and why you are saying it—or your audience won’t understand.
What is the best medium for your message?
- A video chat lets you talk, but it may interrupt someone.
- A text message doesn’t intrude, but you can’t say much.
- An email is more detailed, but it might not get a quick reply.
- An online post is more visible, but it is also less private.
- A slide show or an animation is impressive, but it takes work.
Who is the receiver of the message? Writing to someone you know is easier than writing to someone you don’t know. When possible, have a classmate or family member respond as a first receiver before you send a message.
What is the context? What came before, and what will come after? What will success look like for this message? Also, how formal should it be? Personal messages can use casual language, but school and public messages must be more formal.
Choosing Online Media
Once you’ve considered all of the elements in the situation, you are ready to choose a medium for communicating your message.
Voice or Video Chat 🟪 In a voice or video chat, the sender and receiver can interact to make the message clear. This medium is almost like talking face to face.
Text Chat 🟪 A text chat is almost as flexible as voice or video, and you may be able to save the conversation as a file.
Email 🟪 Email is great for longer messages to one person or a small group. Schools and other groups use email for most important messages.
Social Media 🟪 Kid-friendly social media apps let you share messages with a group of friends. Get your parent’s permission first.
Blog or Wiki Post 🟪 Your class may have a blog or wiki where school reports, stories, poems, and drawings can be shared. Classmates, parents, and friends of the school can see these posts. Follow the rules to protect your privacy.
Communicating Emotion Online
Sometimes how you feel about a message is at least as important as the message itself. The best way to communicate emotion is face to face:
- Facial expression lets people see how you feel.
- Tone of voice lets people hear how you feel.
- Gesture, posture, and body language express emotion.
If you need to convey emotion online, choose a medium that includes some of these clues. For example, a video chat includes all of them, but a phone call includes just tone of voice. Email includes none.
Communicating Emotion in Email
Email doesn’t communicate emotion well. Receivers often think an email message is less positive than it was meant to be. To communicate emotion in email, raise your positivity one notch.
If you are feeling happy, try to sound delighted. If you are feeling okay, try to sound happy. If you are feeling annoyed, try to sound okay. If you are feeling furious—walk away and cool off. In other words, never communicate online when you are very upset.
In casual online writing, emojis can help express emotion. If someone sees a smiling face, they know you are being friendly. If you send a laughing face with tears, the person knows you are really amused.