I wrote a blog the other day about apps and how they can often lead to poor communication and about lack of good old fashioned face to face conversation these days which I believe to be the best form without question.
I wanted to continue this discussion as I very recently had an incident of miscommunication using Whatsapp. Let me preface this by saying that I think modern technology can be a wonderful thing and a very useful tool. I recently met someone very special who lives in England. I live in Spain. So communication would be a tricky and expensive thing where it not for apps such as Whatsapp which I tend to favour. I prefer Facetime for talking as it seems to work better with my ipad, however Whatsapp is great for sending the odd quick message to let your loved one know you are thinking about them, what you are doing, to send a picture of a short video clip (usually of my willy!) or just to simply wish each other Goodnight with a kiss or two.
So the other night we had an audio chat via Facetime. All was well. We chatted for half an hour or so about our day, what was happening, how we were both feeling and so on. We were both calm and enjoying the sound of each other’s voices safe in the knowledge that all was well in the world. Having ended the Facetime conversation, we then continued our chat via text message on Whatsapp. A few misunderstandings later, it descended into an anxious, worried mess! Both of us had misunderstood what the other had written, reading into the simple lines of text far more than was intended, insecurities took hold and before we knew it we were in a stalemate position. It was horrible. Everything had gone so well with our ‘real’ Facetime chat, but now it was chaos and confusion!
So the next day, after a goodnight’s sleep, we talked about it properly, using Facetime audio chat, and we decided to limit our Whatsapp useage to simply voice messages in the morning and a quick Goodnight message at night. During the day, after he was finished work, we would talk properly using Facetime. And you know what, it worked! No more confusion, misunderstanding or second guessing. We simply talk and listen. No drama, no paranoia, no second guessing what the other means, just conversation. You see when you are separated by 1000 and not even in the same time zone it can challenging to say the least. You can’t just drive down the road to see each other, give each other a hug and say ‘Everything’s going to be ok’. You have to do these things with words, comfort each other and support each other with only the sound of your voice.
So it got me to thinking about all the many exchanges I have had using gay apps over the past few years since they first came into use. I use gay apps all the time to communicate with men and tell them about what I do. Some exchanges are great, friendly, positive. Whilst others are vile. People say nasty things, criticism, misinterpret words. I have been yelled at with text and called a thousand names under the sun. And I often think to myself, would these guys say these things to my face? Or is it just that we can hide behind these apps, just a faceless torso or in many cases no photo at all, just a tiny dark square with insults appearing from nowhere! Ultimately it is hurtful and upsetting.
Young gay men have probably only ever known the smart phone and recently the app as a means of communication. This is how their world works. They have not had the benefit of growing up in a world where one picked up the telephone or met someone in a pub to sit and have that nerve wracking but exciting and flirtatious first chat. How many miscommunications and misunderstandings take place through Grindr each and every second of every day?
I wonder how much damage is done to young minds in this way? I hope that doesn’t sound condescending. I just remember being 16,17,18 years old and how I took on board so much of what was said to me. It was hurtful and stayed with me for years. We already live in a world of insecurity, body image issues, pressure from both within and without the gay community and of top of all of that we have to deal with the potential minefield that is trying to communicate with each other via apps where one cannot tell the mood of the other person, cannot hear their voice, intonation, inflection. It is a stripped down means of communication that is just so open to abuse and misunderstandings that can escalate into arguments, nasty comments or worse still psychological damage in some cases. Just look at cases where teenagers have commited suicide due to online bullying. It’s sad, very sad that our world has come to this. And many of these issues could be avoided by simply talking to one another like people instead of robots.
So. I suggest we talk more. If not face to face, at least voice to voice. It’s so much better. From now on I shall be using Whatsapp sparingly and I shall look forward to receiving that proper good old fashioned voice call. I choose to fill my virtual world with words of support, encouragement and above all Love….
Sending Love and Light from Spain. Aaron x