Everything about Skype’s new advertising campaign, launched on April 2nd in the UK, brings an important question to mind: what is real communication? The video-chat software company is marketing themselves as a solution to the coldness of social media and technologies like texting. Their new ads say things like, “Welcome back to humanity” and “140 characters doesn’t equal staying in touch.” The campaign is clearly making a very simple statement: social media just isn’t enough.
But what’s enough?
Is it enough to share photos of your life and every interest you have? Is it enough to open yourself up and let everyone on Tumblr or Pinterest know your taste, your preferences and your pursuits? The Internet gives the common consumer the ability to share their lives with the whole world. But still, Skype says “This isn’t personal enough. This is not the way communication should be.”
The real dilemma here is that the word “communication” has become something used for all of these venues, but everyone is trying to give it a different definition. Twitter tells you to engage via short, succinct messages and encourages users to be witty and interact with each other. Facebook is a way to not only connect and share with family, but has now become a business and news platform with elaborate Pages for every brand you can think of. Instagram, now for more smartphone users with the dawn of Android application, is a way to share photos of your daily life or get creative as a photographer.
So what is the right form of communication? Is Skype right?
Let’s look at the definition of the word communication. The OED says that it’s “…the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.” All of the social media above meets these criteria, and so qualify as means of communication. So we’ve solved the problem temporarily: of course social media and smartphone interaction is communication. But just because it fits in the definition of communication doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s valuable or that the interaction was worthwhile. What makes interactions worthwhile? Is social media killing the meaning in conversation because it occurs over smartphones rather than in person? Is video chatting really going to change the way that people use media to communicate over the Internet? Probably not.
Any kind of communication can be meaningful and impactful
There is not a specific venue for a good conversation. It can happen over text, Twitter, or Facebook. You can have a great conversation in person or you might have the same conversation over Instant Messaging. Just because you can’t see the other person’s face does not mean what is being said is void of meaning. It depends on who is dialoguing and what is being said, not the venue you are using to speak. Is the written word any less impactful than a speech? Doesn’t a video convey the same information that a professor could in a classroom setting? Consider the words that you are using, what you are communicating and how effective your message is. This should be something on your mind whether you’re using Twitter or speaking in person in a conversation. Most importantly, engage and interact intelligently no matter the outlet.