I am definitely not an expert in communication either in the "real" world (in person, by letter or via telephone) or in cyberspace. I occasionally learn from my mistakes. I said occasionally, not always. Sigh...
That being said, after having been a rather active member on this site for more than five years, I have learned a few things about communication and interacting with others in cyberspace. I have blogged about this topic before but I think it is a good topic to revisit from time to time.
When you are blogging or conversing with others in cyberspace, it is very critical to remember there are some key elements of human communication which are missing. We cannot see you or hear you... unless you are on skype of course! I think this is the number one thing which people forget and it usually gets them into terrible trouble.
We process a great deal through our senses. Our senses are often the vehicle which generates our emotions. I really learned this lesson when I was in the hospital after a ruptured brain aneurysm. I had no "sense" of touch, taste or smell and though I could still hear and see, my "sense" of that was extremely sporadic. I have very little recall of six days and what I do recall is mere fragments with no sense of time. The things I do remember gave me a sense of being an unemotional observer rather than a participant. Yes, your combined senses do play a role in generating emotions.
At CB we are are restricted to one sense and that is narrowed down to reading words on a screen. Well, sometimes two if you are in chat. I'll get to that later.
We must be aware that blogging at CB is different than actually sitting down and having a conversation with a person in your living room. There is no body language. This is one of the reasons you will see people treating others so horribly on many sites. They are "talking" to virtual strangers who cannot see the expression on their face nor can they see the person's posture or hear the tone of their voice. We must remember this when we are writing blogs and comments. An innocent observation can suddenly appear to be a derogatory comment to the reader. That's just the way it is. When this is coupled with a lapse of time (since we usually can't respond immediately), our perception of the blog or comment has a chance to get rooted. It can be very difficult to uproot these conceptions and impressions.
I try to use my imagination a lot when blogging at CB. As I write, I try to pretend I actually have someone in front of me and I am talking to them face to face. It is not perfect but it does help. Also, I do actually preview my blogs and comments. I try to put myself in the position of the reader. Once again, it is not perfect but it does cause me to stop and reflect upon what I have written. More often than not, I will edit something before hitting publish.
Another key to being a successful blogger/community member of CB is to take steps to get to know people. Don't focus on your own blogs. Read and comment on the blogs of others. By the way, the old adage "If you can't say something good, don't say anything at all." does have some wisdom in it.
Imagine this. You are having a conversation with someone. Out of the blue, someone you don't know walks up and begins to tell you how wrong you are and that you need to listen to them. Excuse me? What would your reaction be? We must realize that this is exactly what we are doing sometimes in cyberspace.
I'm not saying that we should never comment if we disagree with a blog but there is a polite way to do it. I had a friend do this just the other day. She saw a negative comment which came across in a hurtful manner and she responded to it with dignity and grace. She did not mention the member who made the comment. She simply mentioned the action in a general manner and that was that.
Sometimes people comment on blogs in order to draw attention to blogs they themselves have written. Now sometimes that is fine, especially if you have a good relationship with the blogger and your blog truly compliments their blog. However, here in Minnesota where I live, that is called "tooting your own horn" and is usually considered to be extremely rude. If you are doing this on a fairly regular basis, you may want to re-think that strategy. People don't like to feel "used".
Should you do this, consider returning the "favor" by referencing their blog in your own. That just seems like good manners to me. Many a time I have written a blog that beings with, "I was reading a blog by entitled..." It's good manners, folks.
CB offers a way to get further acquainted with people. It has a chatroom. I have heard people comment that some people come across far differently in chat than they do in their blogs/comments. Usually, it is a compliment. We are communicating closer to real time in chat. We have sound effects and smileys. While the body language is still absent, we are able to give better visual and sound cues. Being in real time means that we can ask and receive answers to our questions faster and can more easily clarify things. This is very important. Chat is a great way to develop relationships with others on this site.
Do relationships matter? At a place like CB, I believe they do. Christianity is all about relationships; relationship with God, one another and the world. People are not required to form relationships at CB but I believe you will have a greater impact in the community if you do.
We must remember that the members on this site are Christians. Many of us have our own spiritual leaders and our own churches. Coming onto the site and telling everyone they are wrong and only a few select people like yourself are right is probably not a good idea. Does this mean we should be silent about what we believe? No. It means you need to be smart about it. It comes back to relationship. Jesus didn't just stand up and start shouting at people about how wrong they were. He developed relationship with people and invited them to follow him. He knew that people are far more likely to listen to people whom they believe actually care about them than they are for a stranger who seems to only care about being right.
Always remember that despite what society tries to say, manners are really important. Having manners can make all the difference in the world in regards to the reception of your blogs, comments and... you. Despite what we may say, each of us was created with a desire to feel accepted and be a part of some sort of group. Yes, there are times we prefer to be alone but when we do so, we want that to be our choice. We want to feel free to rejoin a group when we have had enough of our own company.
Always remember we are always happier when we use our manners and "play nicely", even in cyberspace.