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Communication in the Digital Age

This article explains to the youth how to avoid three barriers to online communication: miscommunication, misinterpretation, and conflicts.

The Internet and social media have made communicating with friends, family, colleagues, and many others easier and quicker. Online communication has created new connections and new ways to interact. Good communication means people are able to interact without difficulty, opening a world of friendship and interaction no previous generation has had. But all this still has its problems. 

In life, you will communicate with all sorts of people and have friendships online. Sometimes, you will face barriers to communication, which may make developing and maintaining friendships more difficult.These barriers include miscommunication, misinterpretation, and conflict, and all will make online relationships more difficult. These things will be frustrating, but they can also be overcome. 


The goal is to deal with conflicts and to communicate truly and respectfully.  It is possible with effort and thought. 


When communicating online, you are unable to use certain tools which make face-to-face communication straightforward. Online, you can’t use body language and the tone of your voice to appear reasonable and show that you mean well. Instead, you need to begin and maintain friendships in other ways, including being careful to avoid miscommunication.  

Miscommunication can happen when someone says or does something which is difficult to understand, or gives an impression they did not mean. It can often mean that communication becomes difficult and unnatural, and people do not understand what the person they are communicating is trying to say, or wants. Sometimes thoughts can be poorly ordered or expressed in ways which make them harder to comprehend. You can solve this problem by stopping and thinking about what it is you want to say, and whether what you are going to send will effectively communicate it.  

Online communication is often fast and sometimes filled with symbols, “memes,” or references that many people may not understand. If you refer to things people don’t understand or remember, you run the risk of miscommunication. You can solve this problem by thinking, before you send or say something, whether it is likely to be too specific or obscure. If the people you are trying to communicate with may not understand what you want to send them, it might be better to send them something else. 



Misinterpretation is closely related to miscommunication. Miscommunication is largely about what you say and do, but misinterpretation is about how you view what others say and do. 

If you rush to interpret what others say, it is possible that you will get their meaning or intention wrong. This is a possible barrier to maintaining friendships and interacting with others. The solution is to be careful when interpreting what others say and do. You should try to understand what they probably want to say, as well as what they might have said. If you have been annoyed, irritated, or upset by something said or done by someone else online, it is important to understand that this could be an example of misinterpretation.  Your emotional reaction to something they say may not be fair.  Before you respond in kind, or develop a bad impression of someone else, reconsider whether they truly meant what you thought they did. 



Online, as in real life, there is likely to be conflict. People disagree online and offline, and people will argue. Disagreement is often healthy and can be good. But when disagreements arise though miscommunication, or become unpleasant or bitter, they can interrupt friendships, spread ill feeling, and hamper relationships. 

Conflict is a barrier when it prevents normal, healthy interaction. It comes when people allow disagreement to become dislike, and fail to move on with their relationship. When online, it is easier to allow miscommunication and misinterpretation to let conflict happen and spoil friendship. It can create negative emotions, which stops people from being able to communicate well together, and make any interaction fraught or difficult to continue. 

In part, avoiding miscommunication helps to avert conflict resulting from what you say and do, and avoiding misinterpretation helps to stop needless conflict arising from what others may have said. 

However, people will still disagree online, and it is important to stop disagreement from getting in the way of friendships. When you disagree with someone else, it is important to be respectful and calm. If you respect those you talk to online, you are less likely to miscommunicate, and they are less likely to misinterpret what you say. Therefore, you will be able to understand each other and avoid conflict.  Discussion and conversation online are not just useful – they’re vital to forming relationships.  


It’s good to avoid common problems and conflicts. But more importantly, it is important that you communicate openly, and with respect, dealing with different views and making the best use of the powerful tools and extraordinary opportunities enabled by online communication. 

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Call to Action

Based on conflicts you have faced previously online and based on what you learned from this article, reflect on what could have been done better.

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