The heaviness of words #digidisciple @lucymills

Confession time: I’m not getting on with words at the moment. They annoy me. This is slightly awkward, as I am supposed to be a writer.

Tweet, tweet, ugh

I take a look at my Twitterfeed and think – bleagh. All the tweets seem like mini expressions of self. Which of course they are, but right now they seem ego-centric, slightly pompous – oh look, how clever, how good, how thoughtful I am! Even when admitting failure – how humble I am! or Please, make me better.

Don’t take this personally. I feel exactly the same about my own tweets. And I’m confessing, so I get to be honest – ugly bits included.

Non-verbal communication, digi-style?

Here’s the challenge:  sometimes words won’t do. They fall short; they even exacerbate the problem. They become irritants.

In the digi-scape, how do we use Non-Verbal Communication (aka NVC)? How do we do the equivalent of sitting next to someone without cluttering the air with words? What’s the digi-alternative of body language? How do we hug someone without typing HUGS or using lots of brackets?

The digi-grump

I’m trying not to be digi-grumpy (it’s probably more to do with it being January). But I need something other than words. And digital communication relies heavily on words.

Is anyone out there? Someone tweets.

Lack of words feels like lack of presence.

Is image an alternative?

There’s image, of course.  In my word-leery state, I can just about cope with looking at a cat squeezed into a glass vase. I’m allergic to cats and it’s not relevant to my day, but it did make me smile.

Images are … OK. But don’t clutter them, overlay them with meaning. Let me find it myself. I have to confess (again) that a cheesy ‘I love you’ or ‘HUGS’ image will probably not help me when I’m like this. It’s the equivalent of putting a schmaltzy soundtrack on when silence would have been better. Overdubbed, overwritten, overdone. Like filling a sentence with unnecessary adjectives.

How do we ‘do’ silence?

We rush to fill silence; perhaps that’s part of the problem. How can we find places of silence in the digi-scape? Or is it the wrong place to look entirely?

How do we deal with moments like this – the moment I’m having, the people like me – in the digi-worlds we inhabit or visit? I’m not being awkward; I want to know. How do we communicate non-verbally in the digital age? Is image the only the option? Do I need to stare you down on Skype and not say a word?

What digi can’t do

Or perhaps we should admit there are limits. That sitting on the sofa next to someone can’t be done by adding an asterisk either side of the phrase.

Have we become such advocates, such apologists for the digital ways of doing things that we forget that it’s one part of life, not all of it, and it can’t meet every need? It’s not casting aspersions to suggest that we need to embrace some things that ‘digi’ can’t do.

That we – that I – need something different on occasion.

Yours grumpily, etc.

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About Lucy Mills

Lucy Mills is author of ‘Forgetful heart: remembering God in a distracted world’, published by Darton, Longman and Todd. What does it mean to ‘remember’ God? Do we actively recall him in our daily lives? She is also on the editorial team of Magnet – an ecumenical Christian resources magazine specialising in colourful and meditative content. She blogs at www.lucy-mills.com/blog