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There is an image which has been circulating of a whole load of men within a train carriage reading newspapers with the caption relating to the fact that we didn’t used to interact much more when there were no smart phones about. I sometimes wonder how we ever managed to meet in the middle of town without having a phone to say ‘I’m here!’ or ‘I’m running late!’ I guess we were just a lot more organised then. But does technology have an impact on social discussion and how people interact…this is the topic of this week’s waffle.

Exchanging ideas with technology. (Original Image from

Exchanging ideas with technology.
(Original Image from

There are a range of applications and sites which allow us to interact with each other. These range from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, to the online dating sites (I don’t know the name of any of these). Beyond the well used phone calls and emails, we now have texts, messengers and even the infamous Snapchat! All allow us to not only interact and make our opinions know, but also make us a lot more available for the interaction. There was a time when taking the phone receiver off the hook meant you were completely unreachable. Now, even our mobile devices are talking to us and wishing us a good day. So with us being more available/accessible, has technology had a positive impact on social interaction and discussion.

  • You can decide – Caller ID was once the best invention ever! I remember buying a phone just with a display on it so I could see who was actually calling me and deciding whether I wanted to answer it or not. Even with answering machines the screening of calls became almost common practice – although it might have just been people avoiding talking to me! With technology today, we have more options about interaction. Although we can still decide whether we want to engage with the discussion or conversation but now the amount of interaction is now an option. ‘LOL’ has long been recognised as – ‘I’m not sure what to say so I’ll just type ‘lol” Snapchats appear in a brief moment of time and disappear, almost suggesting that no response is needed and discussion forums and topics allow you to completely make the decision whether to enter into the discussion or just read and enjoy or, in some cases….fume.

  • Discussion or Comments – Moving away from texting and snapping (?) the options to get involved in discussion forums across the internet is readily available to everyone. Some forums remain close to the lay person, but many are free to participate in once you have registered. These are generally not related to the level of knowledge you have on the topic but more to the willingness to participate. Often forums are a library of support where people more knowledgeable can provide the answers to questions or suggest possible strategies to reach a goal. Once the question has been posed, it is the case of just reading the responses and clarifying the initial question or promoting the discussion further by posting further points or comments. Often, once the initial point has been posted, the replies are allowed to flow and little interaction occurs. Although this is not an ideal discussion, it does encourage others to post their reply without feeling that the ‘correct’ answer has already been provided. This is similar to collecting answers within a session – listen to them all before starting to interact with them. Instead of just reading, you do have the option to interact with the discussion as points or replies are posted. This can of course lead to long threads but are often interesting to see the different point of views and how they relate to all the contributors. Essentially this would be a true online discussion.

  • Interaction or Statements – One thing which I have noticed within discussion threads is the difference between comments which promote interaction and those which stand alone as statements which almost attempt to finish the topic thread. At work, I’m often referred to as a ‘social butterfly’ flitting from person to person, office to office, interacting and discussing (or maybe gossiping). Promoting discussion is key for me within all discussions – I would rather acknowledge and further question a point, rather than just presenting a statement of fact which often leads to the closure of the topic or further responses/participation. The internet has yet, apart from the most basic system, develop a way of communicating the emotion and intonation of comment. A student recently commented that putting a smiley face at the end of any feedback always makes it seem good. If I am participating I always feel the need to add clarifying comments such as – ‘just a thought’ in order to let people know the ‘feeling’ behind the comment. Anyone who knows me that I find it difficult to interpret public interactions let alone virtual ones!

  • There are many positives about carrying out discussions with technology. I wouldn’t say these were advantages, just positives since I am not suggesting that technology would ever remove or replace that personal interaction. With discussion forums and platforms like Twitter, we can engage in conversations across the internet. We don’t actually need to be at the conference or in the room to ask our questions they can be answered and discussed while we are seeping coffee or sat in our pyjamas. Technology also allows use to engage more readily with experts around the world, whether these might be famous authors or bloggers or experts in companies like NASA. With forums we can engage if and when we want. We don’t need to check caller ID, we can chose ourselves when to post, when to engage and when to actually just listen – without being asked, when we do not contribute, whether we are ok.

    If you feel you would like to post your own views/comments about this waffle then I look forward hearing your comments and interacting with them. Please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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    Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later


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