n the modern world, virtually everyone has some sort of device that can access the internet. Through the internet, people communicate using sites such as Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and even in online multiplayer games. Instant communication has become an imperative feature in our society that allows people to hear different opinions, understand different cultures and spread their own ideas world-wide. Never before has communication been so free and instant, yet it still needs to improve on a reliable aspect of face-to-face interaction: non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is defined as all parts of communication other than words and is an important aspect of face to face interaction with another (Knapp 5). These non-verbal cues include eye contact, facial expressions, rate of speech, gestures, posture, sounds, apparel, smell, appearance and even silence. Non-verbal communication is utilized in our everyday life without us even knowing. We learn to utilize non-verbal communication ever since we are babies. When babies cry it could either be a cry of pain or out of need, the parents learn to differentiate these non-verbal cues. Even something like pointing is a nonverbal cue that babies learn to interpret, and intern, parents learn to interpret/encode the meaning. It’s obvious that non-verbal communication is a key part of communication, yet a large majority of our communication takes place over the internet and will continue to be in the near future. One of the most popular forms of communication, via the internet, is E-mail. E-mail is very popular and mandatory in business. But, in general, E-mail is a very flawed form of communication. It’s common to have an Email be misinterpreted by the recepricat and causes misunderstandings that can lead to a crisis.Besides Email, people use a plethora of different communication mediums such as texting, instant messaging, chat rooms and public forums. Through these mediums, people have been able to start lasting relationships. In fact, in a survey by advertising giant Euro RSCG Worldwide, about half of the respondents said they knew someone who has dated or who’s marriage started online (Friedman). In 2008, Match.com recorded having twenty million active members (Match.com). Meaningful relationships are definitely not impossible online, however relying on online only interactions can have negative effects on one’s interpersonal skills. This is because of the time spent using internet interaction displaces time spent in face to face interactions. This is called “displacement hypothesis” which means that when people replace personal interactions with online interactions, they start to replace real-life relationships with online relationships because it’s easier to have a relationship that lacks feelings, affection and commitment. The meaningful moments of relationships are belittled and the individual’s well being is negatively affected (Huang 242).Studies show that some people actually have a better sense of self while interacting online. These people are usually socially awkward/isolated and are most comfortable in a secure environment that hides their identity. Anonymity makes creating online relationships easier and could help these individual’s well being (Huang 242). This does not suggest these people are “total shut ins,” but it shows that it’s possible to have meaningful relationships online without nonverbal cues.Some studies even claim that certain communication mediums over the internet can facilitate the use of the other. For example, email could improve real life interaction between existing friends and phone use promotes personal visits (Huang 242).Sometimes people use email and texting because it excludes face to face interactions. Texting is convenient when one is communicating with someone he/she does not want to deal with in person. For example, a dude you know wants to hang out, but you happen to hate this individual, it’s easier and maybe even socially acceptable to text him/her saying you are busy to avoid the risk of having your nonverbal cues be interpreted as rejection. Communication online is probably the best way to distance yourself and be less attached when desired. First impressions are probably the most vital part of social interaction. First impressions give an individual some valid judgments right we he/she first meets someone. Thus, each interaction is crucial to draw the most accurate and advantages image of oneself to others. Communication over the computer displaces all cues that one can get from first impressions such as appearance, smell, posture and eye contact. These small cues have always been the basis for decision making. For example, when one goes to a job interview the interviewer will take note of how one answers the questions, one’s body language and eye contact. It’s completely plausible for an interviewer to turn down a possible candidate if the candidate’s body language is too poor.Without a face to face experience, individuals can make inaccurate assessments of someone they meet over the internet. However, there are methods that can expose one’s unintentional cues and can be used to make judgements over the internet. One method is observing one’s spelling ability. The small decision to decide to spell a word correctly or incorrectly in a text or email can be synonyms with the decision to dress oneself poorly or proper. All though, one may have to dress poorly because he/she may not be able to afford better clothes or one may just prefer crumby clothes. In the same sense, one’s impaired spelling ability can stem from one’s intellect or one may just not care for proper grammar or spelling while texting for time’s sake. Either way, it gives an insight in some way. Another method is how one punctuates his/her sentences. Punctuation can clarify meaning of a sentence or make the sentence confusing to the recipient and cause an negative impression due to a misunderstanding. Another thing to spot is the rate at which someone types. It can be seen as aggressive if one types to fast or can be seen as unintelligent if one types to slow. Although, one’s perception of speed when it comes to typing its completely subjective to each individual.Assessing unintentional cues can be difficult to master, but people can send intentional cues that can also give an insight to the people we meet online. Emoticons are the most popular form of communication when it comes to instant messaging, texting or chatting and are the best way to express an emotion via the internet. They’re easy to learn, use and range from thousands of different emotions with varying intensity. A study by Shao-Kang Lo, published in CyberPsychology & Behavior, showed that text only interactions (without emoticons) online can lead to misunderstandings, but when emoticons are involved it’s much easier for the recipient to discern the meaning of the text. Dr. Lo concluded that emoticons are a nonverbal function in an online setting and is considered a quasi-nonverbal cue (Lo 597). Another quasi-nonverbal cue online are emotes. Emotes, for those that are not familiar, are different from emoticons because emotes are actual pictures of everything from a set of painted nails to a fire truck while emoticons show pictures representing facial emotions (The Guardian). Emotes can represent words or phrases and emphasize how one is feeling sometimes better than emoticons. For example, the skull emote represents the phrase, “i’m dead” (which is a phrase that means something is very funny).Emotes are very popular in gaming culture, specifically in Massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), but they are used in a different matter. In these types of games such as World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Runescape and Maplestory the player has control of a character and can explore the game world and interact with other players. Most of the interaction that takes place is through chat windows in the game and can type emotes that will animate the player’s character to perform a gesture. In these games, nonverbal cues can be anything. A cue can be the way a player is moving in a specific way or if a player is using an emote in a specific way. Quasi-nonverbal cues such as these improve online communication and shortens the gap that once stifled communication online. Communication over the internet now has similar face to face cues such as, gestures and body language that one would get from real human contact.Nonverbal communication is critical to any type of interaction. Body language, gestures, hand movements, eye contact, posture and even breath control are all subtle cues that say a lot about someone, and without them communication is crippled in some way. The use of communication over the internet is certainly not complex enough to compete with face to face communication, but there are some tricks that individuals can utilize to bring some important context to what they types. Until communication through the computer has some sort of break through, individuals are going to have to do their best to be as engaging as possible to make communication over the internet be as enriching as possible.
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