It’s been one of those weeks in the matrix, ups and downs, misunderstandings, blatant bloody-mindedness, and laughs, there’s always a lot of laughs.  But how do you get your point across?  How do you ensure that your friends/ followers/twiblings (delete as) understand where you’re coming from?

I guess I’m focusing mainly on Twitter, although the misunderstandings can spread far wider than that, but also on macro (as opposed to micro) blogging generally and I’m trying not to go down the paranoia path- been there before… see.  The ability to communicate is a wonderful gift but it comes with a caveat. Everything we say has the ability to impact, to wound, to inspire and offend and it’s important to remember this.  We can argue that our blog is our little safe place, that we write it for ourselves and that’s true… to an extent.  But if it really was private, then surely we’d all be using Live Journal or a similar platform to record our musings without putting it into the pubic domain?  No matter what we all say, we like it when people visit our blog, we like it even more when they take the time to comment and, if they return and/or subscribe?  Well, it’s time to hang out the bunting!

So, we have a responsibility to our readers, not necessarily in the choice of subject matter or how it’s presented, I’m not talking about self-censorship or imposing parameters- I stopped doing that a while ago…see, but just a bit of respect.  So, when I’m writing this, I’m thinking about you and how you might respond to it, trying to consider what you might question and answering that question before it needs to be asked. I’m proof-reading (although you can bet I’ll publish and have to immediately edit and republish) and I’m trying to make it interesting.  I’m not assuming that you’ll read it just for the sake of it…

Twitter is harder still, it’s 140 kernels of you-ness. 120 if you want to make it easy to be RT’d (so ‘they’ say), and it’s immediate, no going back – BANG! Yes, you can delete tweets but it’s not always so easy- most of us are now using platforms other than Twitter, great hulking dashboards that divide our friends and mentions and searches and lists into easy to read silos and cache them there.  We’re developing this burgeoning area of social media and making up the rules as we go along. Here’s a great recent example from @himupnorth.

The virtual world isn’t as ephemeral as we’d like to think and it’s as easy to offend as it is to amuse, so how do we make sure that people ‘see’ our point of view? I resort to exclamation marks and emoticons on the whole, despising them for taking me over my character limit but relying on their obviousness, add in the occasional hastily written DM when I think I may have crossed a line and that’s about the best formula I’ve found. Ultimately I think it’s about getting to know your peers and accepting that you’ll have ups and downs like in any relationship but if you can take the time to invest in this virtual world, then 140 characters starts to feel like just the right amount…

In Cyberspace No One Can Hear You Smile…
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21 thoughts on “In Cyberspace No One Can Hear You Smile…

  • February 11, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Well said. It’s so difficult to hit the right tone sometimes, particularly when you only have 14o characters to work with. Add in the fact that the people you are “talking” to are not only not sitting next to you, and therefore missing out on your body language, facial expressions etc, but may also never have met you in “real life”, and so don’t have the benefit of knowing your sense of humour, that you like the use liberal sarcasm etc, and it’s a minefield really.
    But on the other hand, that can be a good thing. If you don’t “get” me on Twitter, then we probably wouldn’t get on in person either, and if you’re not prepared to give me the benefit of the doubt, then our relationship, virtual or otherwise, isn’t worth all that much to you. And so Twitter is just like real-life, in miniature. Some people you click with, others you don’t. And that’s ok.

  • February 11, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I think that Kathie put it very well, it’s very important to give people the benefit of the doubt especially when up til that point you have got on well. It’s about remaining curious and interested and asking questions rather than making assumptions about what something means. Otherwise it is a very likely to end up in making a judgement on them. It has taken me a long time to realise that life is not black and white, there are many shades of grey.

    In cyber space, you cannot see someone smile nor can you see them cry but as Kathie intimated you can tell very quickly whether you like their energy. If they have a blog it comes across even more clearly there. I remember reading a comment on Baby Baby (Sandy’s blog) a while ago in which the reader said it was clear that the blogger really loved writing and that was what inspired her and her readers.

  • February 11, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Exactly Kathie, I completely agree. You tend to find your own level in all of these mediums, on Twitter the liberal sarcasm and schoolyard humour section is generally where I’m hiding too. BTW, what’s your twitter name? I can’t find a link and I have to make sure I’m not missing out 😉

    Thanks for reading, and commenting!


  • February 11, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks Kate, BOD is a good thing always. It’s something that I’ve always done and experienced enriched relationships as a result.

    No one gets it right 100% of the time, but debate is just that… no more, no less.

    Thanks for stopping by. Px

  • February 11, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Great post, PB. The world wide web can so easily instill a false sense of immunity to others. My rules were a little tongue in cheek, but being true to ourselves is worth striving for. Thanks v much for the cross ref!
    Garry (HUN)

  • February 11, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you! You’re v. welcome, I like those rules- tongue-in-cheek or not. Although I think you’re going to have to do a monthly update!


  • February 11, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    oh hello. Not been here before…nice place, I like what you’ve done with the plants too. Great touch.

    Okay, okay….here’s what I think – I think life is pretty unfair, in reality and in cyber-space and sometimes a thick skin, when you’re putting yourself out there – is the best survival mechanism you can find. And, I think it’s been said, a slight on you (however small) is still felt, but probably not meant. I hope that makes sense. It does in my head.
    Darn good topic to debate tho. And I think we’ve still only scratched the surface. Now where’s the emoticon thingy which jumps up and down downing tequila?! x

  • February 11, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Kathie is so right, as I mentioned in my blog post from a couple of weeks ago – there are a few people who “get” me and I knew that immediately.

    The WWW is as small or enormous as you make it but you have to be careful what you put out there as it can easily be misconstrued or you can begin to rely on it and you can believe that your virtual friends become real friends when they in fact want to stay anonymous using their online moniker.

  • February 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I do find I feel quite self-conscious about what I write and I think I do censor myself – but it’s because I want to feel happy and comfortable with what I put out there. I would feel terrible if something I wrote was taken the wrong way but you are so right in saying sometimes things just can be read differently to how you intended it.

    Anyway, have a sunshine award – I’ve sent you one from my blog!

  • February 12, 2010 at 4:58 am

    It can be so hard sometimes, hitting that right note, making sure that any humour is seen as that and not as being nstay. It does get easier when you get to know those around you, either those that follow you or those that read you blog, a little more but you still have the danger of upsetting someone new that comes along or, with a blog, someone that comes along months after the fact.

    I think a lot of people do tend to forget that common manners and courtesy are required on the internet as they are in real life. just because we are behind screens hidden away does’t make us any less vulnerable to hurt and upset.

  • February 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Gigi, I think you took my spider plant… return it now and we’ll say no more about it… 😉

    Makes absolute sense and it’s something we all need to be careful of, it’s no fun feeling like that and it’s taints the experience for everyone if you have, even unwittingly, make someone feel that way.

    Now, onto tequila drinking….this prob’ly won’t work:

    Thanks for stopping by. Px

  • February 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    You’re right Nic, and for some the t’interweb is about creating a more palatable version of themselves, but those are the people who will never really connect with anyone, in any medium.

    I think being yourself, warts and all is really important and reminding yourself that you’re not typing into a void… even if you have no subscribers and only the occasional comment it’s still ‘out there’.

    The best part of all is finding people who do ‘get you’ and making friends, real friends, regardless of whether you’ll ever meet in ‘real life’ or not…


  • February 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I think it’s an evolutionary thing… the blogs I read where the writer has obviously been going for a while are much more free than I feel mine is, and I guess that’s because they’ve found their voice and gained in confidence. It’s a balancing act, pure and simple…

    I’ve just hopped over the fence to your lovely blog and made a tearful acceptance speech- thank you, that’s my first ever award and I’m delighted! Can’t work out how to get the badge though, but I’m sure I’ll work it out… eventually! Px

  • February 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    That’s so true, the internet is the virtual equivalent of Dutch courage and it’s all too easy to make a hasty comment without thinking it through.

    In such a fast growing community it’s easy to feel peripheral but this changes rapidly with a bit of time and effort. On the whole, I find it a really friendly place and try to pay that forward, and it everyone else is doing the same, well, then we’re getting there. 🙂


  • February 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I am very conscious that readers of my blog, or the blogs I’m commenting on, might not get my sense of humour. I dislike emoticons but use them a lot so people can tell when I am joking. Saying that I do write pretty much what I want on my blog and don’t feel I need to censor it.

    I also have a Sunshine award for you but Solveig beat me to it (she also very kindly gave me mine which shows I was so excited I didn’t actually see who else she had picked, oops!)

  • February 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    OH, it is too easily to offend someone online. Online people can’t see what else is going on in your life. Online people may not realise that you haven’t worked out this technical side of things yet. Online people may be new and not understand the ‘netiquette’. To easily does something written in haste (with a couple of children in the background and dinner cooking on the stove) which comes across all wrong. Good post, really enjoyed reading it.

  • February 15, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    What an interesting post. With texting and tweeting is can be difficult to understand someone’s tone of voice. Exclamation marks and smilies help of course but on Twitter I only send funny and possibly confusing tweets to people I have actually met in real life so they understand where I am coming from. People can build up an online persona but I tread with caution as it is just that – a persona, in real life they could be completely different. It is a little different if they also write a blog that I have read for some time as that will have helped me understand them more, but with all aspects of social media, we need to be careful. And as far as I am aware tweets are also recorded on Google and come up in searches!

  • February 16, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I’m probably repeating myself here, but ultimately it does all come down to choice doesn’t it? We can be conscious of how people might perceive our scribblings, and even take the time to explain ourselves but no one ‘has’ to read it, and if we unwittingly offend well, then they won’t come back. But hopefully, most people will take a second to consider, and get used to our humour, and stick with it…

    Thank you for the sunshine award… Sorry about the late reply,I’ve been offline for 48 hours in the wilds of West Wales (and it was a struggle!) I’m still catching up on all the new blogs that Solveig recommended as well.. so don’t feel bad about that! 🙂


  • February 16, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Thanks E. It’s so true and I’m sure we all make the same mistakes as we find our way. I think the important thing is remembering that and paying forward the kindness that others show us along the way.


  • February 16, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    That’s quite a scary thought… the idea of someone taking the time to trawl through every tweet you’ve ever written. The profile that could be built would be horribly one-dimensional!

    I agree about the blogging- it’s so much easier to build up the bigger picture and, although it’s not the same as meeting them in real life, in some ways it’s more telling. I find people to be more open in their blogging (at times) than they might choose to be in real life, using it as a outlet to show a side of themselves that they can’t always show to ‘proper’ friends. Personally I find it easier to communicate by writing, maybe because I do it for a living, or more likely because I get quite tongue-tied in a conversation, so I feel like the persona that people see in my blog is the ‘real me’.

    Look forward to speaking to you more on Twitter


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