August 12, 2016    BusinessPsychology

Are Younger Generations Better at Avoiding Miscommunication Online?

The younger generations are generally savvier with the written forms of communication like texting, email, and social media, because they grew up with them. The older generations had to learn them as their second language. I’m wondering: Are the younger generations better at avoiding miscommunication when they use these digital mediums?

I have a feeling that they are better because they start making mistakes much earlier (I see them with my 11-year old daughter), so they should have a better sense of what to do and what not to do. Naturally, they will still make many mistakes but I have a feeling that they make less obvious mistakes than the older generations do.

I think the older generations automatically blame the medium for being prone to miscommunication—the main argument being that it lacks the visual and emotional cues—instead of blaming themselves for the lack of experience. By blaming the medium, they become even less savvy. And, the confirmation bias convinces them that face-to-face or phone is a superior medium of communication. Meanwhile, the younger generations get better and better at using the written forms of communication. So the gap widens continually.

In terms of efficiency, written forms of communication have numerous advantages over the spoken forms. If you express an idea once in writing, it can potentially be shared with millions of people. You wouldn’t have to repeat yourself over and over. The same reader can re-read it to make sure he understood it correctly. What we communicated does not get lost or distorted in our memories because we have a copy. We do not need to disturb or distract anyone in the middle of doing something important because written mediums are asynchronous (the writer and the reader can communicate on their own schedule and at their own pace). And so on...

This is not to say that face-to-face communication or phone conversations should be avoided. They do have their own pros and cons. My main concern here is that the older generations are blaming the wrong thing. The written forms of communication are not necessarily more prone to misunderstanding; it’s their lack of experience that leads to misunderstanding. If so, the older generations should be compensating for their lack of experience by eagerly embracing these online mediums.

If your native language is English and French is your second, you will naturally encounter more instances of miscommunication when you speak French, but it does not mean that the French language is more prone to miscommunication.