Electronic communication plays vast roles in the way individuals communicate in today’s society, this has created a significant change to the quality of interpersonal communication. Using instant text messaging as a channel of communication detracts from the quality of interpersonal communication as it eliminates important components conveyed through face-to-face communication. Eye contact, body movements and facial expressions are all important elements that contribute to interpersonal communication. Eye contact can provide important information through non-verbal communication it can convey and enhance messages that may not be interpreted verbally.
Body movement enhances information that is being expressed or received and sends strong messages through verbal and non-verbal communication. Facial expressions can communicate non-verbal signals with only minor movements of the face. When exchanging information these non-verbal signals can help display emotion and response. These important components of interpersonal communication play fundamental roles in communicating information and cannot be expressed through electronic pathways such as instant text messaging.
Eye contact and eye behavior is an important element in interpersonal communication. Understanding information can at times be a difficult process, some would say without eye contact it makes it hard to verify whether the information they are conveying is being comprehended (Davidhizar 1992). Eye contact plays a fundamental role through non-verbal communication as it can be substituted for verbal communication. Using a direct gaze or certain eye behavior can be interpreted as many things such as signaling or acknowledging an individual (Davidhizar 1992; Eunson 2012). Additionally eye contact in verbal communication can enhance the information being expressed engaging the listener and helping them comprehend the information promptly (Davidhizar 1992).
Absence of eye contact in interpersonal communication can result in misinterpreted information. It is likely that the sender of the message will interpret that the listener is disinterested and has minimal concern as to what is being communicated (Davidhizar 1992). Interpersonal communication is a process in which senders and receivers exchange messages between each other either verbally or non-verbally. This can be enhanced by visual elements to share information and feelings (Gardner and Kleiner 2009). Therefore using interpersonal communication through an electronic communication channel such as instant text messaging is not a sufficient way in making sure information is received adequately as eye contact is a vital element that is absent in the communication channel.
Body movement is a powerful tool and strong indicator as to how we communicate with others. Eunson (2012, p. 267) states ‘ orientation, or the attitude, inclination or body angle we adopt in relation to others, can send powerful nonverbal messages’. There are various types of movements that can be indicated through the body as communication. Affect displays is a main type of movement of the body. These are movements of the face, hands and general body (Devito 2012). Face movements can include certain facial expressions such as frowning or smiling, hand movements that help illustrate verbal messages for example, referring to something to the left or right and the general body can illustrate body tension or relaxation (DeVito 2002).
Affect displays help communicate emotional meaning at times during communication. They can be done intentionally to help display the message such as smiling to express enjoyment or approval (DeVito 2002). Alternatively Affect displays may be done unintentionally when messages are being communicated the sender or receiver may smile or frown unconsciously (DeVito 2002). When exchanging information and messages through instant text messaging the movements of affect displays cannot be communicated and visible to the sender or receiver. Consequently making instant text messaging an un-reliable way of exchanging information effectively.
Facial expressions through non-verbal communication are a sufficient way in listening, expressing emotion and giving feedback. Non-verbal communication is a vital element of interpersonal communication as it helps express emotion and personality through the process of exchanging information (Eunson 2012). Non-verbal signals such as facial expressions can be defined as non-verbal behavior. Ellgring (1989, p.5) describes it as ‘ A code matches signs of one set to signs of another set’. When a person uses facial expressions it can convey many emotions, this can be done with only minor movements of the face.
Some emotions that can be expressed are happiness, surprise, fear and anger (DeVito 2002). Facial expressions are relied upon to comprehend messages sufficiently and to understand one another especially in non-verbal communication (Goldmann and Mallory 1992). Ekman (cited in Calero 2005, p. 64) states “when a facial expression is used as a signal – such as winking an eye as a gesture of approval, or sticking out the tongue to signify playful distaste – they are very easy to comprehend”. Instant text messaging has become a more widespread and convenient mode of communication in every day life (Huang et al 2007).
However when messages are being communicated through an electronic channel such as instant text messaging comprehension of information can at times be misinterpreted or difficult to understand (Galushkin 2003). When communicating face-to-face receiving verbal and non-verbal signals aids the sender or receiver to interpret information sufficiently (Huang et al. 2007). Accordingly facial expressions play a vital role in sending and receiving verbal and non-verbal signals (Huang et el. 2007). This making face-to face communication a more efficient and effective way of exchanging information and messages, than electronic communication.
Eye contact, body movement and facial expressions are fundamental features in the exchange of information in interpersonal communication. Using eye contact effectively in communication guarantees information is being interpreted sufficiently and the sender or receiver is engaged in what is being expressed. The use of body movement in communication aids in the interpretation of information and sends powerful messages that can communicate emotional meaning. Facial expressions such as frowning or smiling help communicate emotion and personality through the exchange of information.
They are sufficient in making sure messages are clearly understood especially in non-verbal communication. Therefore the elements of eye contact, body movement and facial expressions are all significant mechanisms to ensure adequate communication. Electronic communication is unable to utilize these elements of information transfer, and can therefore be considered an inferior method of communication when compared to face-to-face communication.
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