We live in a world now that was almost unimaginable in my childhood. Remember that this was before Telstar (July 10, 1962 ) the first communication satellite, though a century after the first transatlantic telegraph cable (1858). (Yea, I am an old fuck, just starting my fourth quarter-century.) But the idea that I could, at the virtual push of a button, see and talk to someone over 5000 miles away and see their immediate reaction, was only conceivable to science fiction writers.
I often think about what it takes to clearly communicate. As an actor for most of my life and a Master for the last quarter-century, the meaning of my content is tremendously important. What is it that we pay attention to when we listen?
This is where my thoughts lead. Voice tone, body position, voice volume, eye direction, movement, smell, and distracting actions are the most pertinent. I say this emphasizing what I do not include is Content.
In my career as an actor I often engaged in the exercise where one takes one sentence and repeats it five different ways conveying five different meanings. Try it, it is entertaining. The point here is that there are a multitude of meanings possible from the same words. Words. Look at the page you are reading. The words in front of you are all you have, and just as in your favorite novel, everything else comes from your own mind. To paraphrase Dragnet, “Just the words, Ma’am, just the words.”
In your novel, as you read the words, you build the scene, the sounds, any possible distraction, etc. from inside. You may be told that the conversation takes place in a room or outside, perhaps the weather, the period may help you build the outfit or costumes, but unless told, explicitly all the elements I previously mentioned, tone, position, volume, movement, etc. are built by you, the reader. Not by the words you are reading.
Does anyone wonder why online relationships have such challenges once a meeting takes place? One reason I so overwhelmingly respect my slaafja is that within a month of conversations, primarily textual, she insisted on our meeting and took it on herself to buy the ticket to come 5000 miles to live with me for two weeks. Even so, it was fraught with the need to resolve misinterpreted communication, primarily by me.
So, do I have recommendations? An overwhelming yes. 1) The more you can have face to face conversations the better. Use technology. Be informative and polite. If life gets in the way of a conversation, let people know. “Sorry, gotta go. I’ll be back to check messages in a couple of hours.”, “at 4.”, or “after I finish the laundry.”, etc. 2) Use my most favorite question, “What do you mean by that?” If something is said in text that is particularly emotional to you, ask about it immediately and preferably in a video connection. And most strongly, 3) if this is a relationship important to you or becoming so, do whatever you can to have a face-to-face, in-person visit, for as long as possible. I think it goes without saying here, if your textual partner refuses to do a video call or hesitates meeting, consider that a red flag.
To emphasize safety, I wish to recommend a post on safe calls (https://www.evilmonk.org/a/bamm02.cfm) which is particularly informative, but a complete discussion on first visit safety is worthy of a far more extensive post.