Now, I have to say this. I work in tech because I love tech. But when I leave work, having relationships that don’t involve a screen is really important to me. You’d be surprised at how often access to technology makes it easy to be lazy about hanging with others in real life.
However. Despite all my grumpy rants about technology and how it affects relationships, I am a major fan of GChat.
I have incredible, fascinating, thoughtful conversations with people on GChat. Most of my blog posts/projects have been inspired by conversations I’ve had on there. My conversations tend to be with the people I am closest to in real life (aka: people that I already have a lifetime of meaningful, face-to-face conversations with), but I believe that GChat actually enables us to have conversations – deep, long, intellectual conversations – that would not have existed face-to-face.
I’ve thought about why that is, and here are the reasons I’ve come up with:
1. Pauses are not an issue over GChat.
In real life conversation, there is the immediate desire to fill in silence – even if you are deep in thought and need a moment to gather your next thoughts. In real-life conversation, pauses incite people to rush in to fill the silence – often to agree, or to quickly offer a tangential opinion of their own, which means that they often don’t get a moment to truly digest or think about what you have just said.
This means 2 things:
1. GChat gives the ability to slow conversations down, and proceed at whatever pace the conversationalists dictate.
2. GChat can make you a better listener.
2. You can easily pull in links to articles/songs/videos, or quotes from pertinent articles you read, to support or further a point.
Two days ago, a friend and I got on the topic of authenticity in technology and online personas, because I had sent her an article that Emily Witt had written on online dating. She added her own opinion, and supported her opinion by sending me a recent controversial article and short “documentary” on the “circus” of street style.
Great jumping off points for GChat conversations often start with: “Have you read this?” with a link to an article/video/image/tweet. Both people can then pull in quotes that really resounded with them, and discuss further. It’s reminiscent of English class.
While you can discuss interesting articles you read with someone in person, it’s harder to go deeper when the reference materials aren’t right in front of you. It’s also less likely that connections will be made to other interesting links/videos.
3. GChat brings out slightly different facets of peoples’ personalities.
People are different when they talk and when they write. (Although there are some people that manage to bridge the area, and when they write you hear their voice saying the words.) Writing, as opposed to talking, can draw out the more contemplative, thoughtful, and serious sides in people. Some people are more candid.
4. GChat conversations tend to be on different topics than real-life conversations.
GChat conversations are often spawned by interesting online content and tend to be more “information-based.” In real life, people tend to converse about things that happened to them. Therefore, GChat spurns not only different types of discussions, but a different lens through which to analyze things that happen in life.
Honestly, I think you could argue that every medium through which people communicate have different motives/tones/moods/types of information conveyed. However, I think I’ve made an interesting case for GChat, because, to me, it stands out as one of the few examples where conversation is actually elevated by the technology.