Please Don't Feed the Trolls - Part Deux
I posted a while back on the way the internet allows us to be jerks to one another. People are always telling me about their conflicts, and so I kept hearing stories of technology magnifying tensions, breaking down communication, and masking intentions. I never really stopped thinking about how new forms of communication are shaping conflict, and I think there’s something else worth considering.
Written language - whether a novel or a text message - allows us to interpret what others say in your own voice. When you read, you probably hear your own voice in your head (if not, there’s a chance you’re actually a robot). And because you read in your own voice, it allows you to do a little editorializing. That seemingly straightforward text my sweetheart sent me: “Did you stop to get milk before leaving for work?” can be heard as an indictment of my parenting and wifehood (I’m pretty sure that’s a word?), when my internal voice reads it more like this: “Did you even bother to get your son some milk before flitting off for the day??” The fact that my other half isn’t there to give me context clues, or use his own tone, allows me to dredge up 12 years’ of tiny failures that he might be silently referencing and apply how I think he might feel about them to his text.
Much as I would love it if my husband would just read aloud every text he sends me (he has a lovely voice), I think that he might be slightly put out by that. So what is a gal to do? I always try to do two things:
Read it in another person’s voice. Not necessarily the voice of the person sending it, but do it like you’re reading Game of Thrones, and the characters, despite being from a fictional world, somehow all have british accents. Better yet, do it like you’re auditioning to play a butler in a BBC period piece.
If that fails, ask a question. Doesn’t really matter which question. Just practice being curious about whatever you’re reading.
So what happened with my husband and the milk? Turns out, he really just wanted to know if he needed to stop for milk on his way home. What a mensch.