Digital communication is communication that is done using electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers, or tablets. The common channels of the Internet, text messages, online news, and chats, or video conferencing may seem strange to older generations, but many teenagers use them every day to communicate with friends and to access information.
The digital communication tools include the applications available to us on our mobile phones and computers, such as SMS, instant messaging, email, videoconference, websites, or social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Instant messaging and videoconference applications include LINE, Skype, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger.
Today’s Digital Age has changed personal and professional communication from being largely written or face-to-face to being a mix of written communication, images, audio, video, and face-to-face communication.
Digital devices and tools greatly expand our opportunities to exchange ideas with many people; however, communicating digitally might carry a higher risk of misunderstanding than talking face-to-face, except when videoconference is used. When we are interacting face-to-face, we subconsciously observe the cues of gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions of the other person to maximize the effectiveness of our understanding.
There are several characteristics that are specific to digital communication. The key characteristic is that you can choose when and with whom you want to communicate, even if the person is in a different part of the world. For example, at 10:00 am in your country, you might send a message to a friend in France, where it is only 5:00 am. That friend can check email or a social media site after waking up and can reply to you later that day or whenever it is convenient for him or her.
These exchanges take just a split second to cross the world along cables that sit at the bottom of the ocean.
The second characteristic of digital communication, therefore, is that it is very, very fast. That speed is both good and bad. Messages travel quickly, but sometimes we may write things that we regret later. Some people reply quickly without reflecting, and they transfer their reactions into their words, often displaying emotions such as anger and neglecting spelling or suitable phrases.
Expressing negative emotions can damage relationships, and spelling errors may distract from the flow of the intended message and may also lead to misunderstanding. It is essential to pause and think before writing, especially if you are feeling emotional or your message could be misinterpreted.
The third characteristic of digital communication is that verbal communication dominates over non-verbal communication and that the contacts are usually short, rather than the longer and often more meaningful contacts made in person. Communication on a digital device is often limited to the screen and speakers of your device, giving you limited information to make a correct interpretation. Often you must code and decode text, abbreviations, or emojis.
When sharing images, you send and receive just visual messages. Only video chats and video conferences enable you to interpret gestures, body language, and tone of voice, similar to having a face-to-face conversation. But limits still remain, since you are removed from actual human contact.
The fourth characteristic of digital data is that it can be copied, altered, or even republished. Each message you write, each friend you add, and each comment or picture you share is coded into digital data and stored on the server of whatever service you are using, such as Facebook or LINE. That is a big challenge for all digital communicators.
You must always be aware that once uploaded to the Internet, and data can be retrieved or copied from anywhere. Your posted words, pictures, or videos will never be under your control again. (Textbox: When we speak, our words live for a few moments. When we write, our words live forever. –or — Once posted, always posted. Protect your reputation.)
The fifth characteristic of digital communication is that you can be in touch with people who have similar interests and you would never meet otherwise. This is a way to socialize and learn about new ideas at the same time. For example, you might decide to join a social networking group that focuses on the martial art of karate.
Once you have registered with the group, you will be able to post comments, images, and videos about the topic. Soon you will see that people from all over the world are members of that same group. Even when people are using different languages, you can click on the built-in translation software to understand the words of a fellow group member.
The sixth characteristic of digital communication is that it is inexpensive to the user once the person has purchased the electronic device and paid for any subscription services. Social media and even phone calls over the Internet are then free of charge. Money can also be saved because messages do not need to be printed on paper; instead, they can be stored for a long time on an electronic device. Even books can be downloaded electronically so that you do not need a paper copy, and then you can read it any time you have Internet access.
The seventh characteristic is that a large amount of identifying information is often stored on the device itself. Protect your mobile device from theft by keeping it in a safe place and setting up a password. Make sure that important data, such as contacts, text messages, and emails are backed up. If your phone, tablet, or laptop is stolen, your information might be lost to you, and that can be more than an inconvenience. It is possible that someone else can then access a wide variety of your stored personal information.
Finally, an eighth characteristic of digital communication is that it reduces the amount of time we are prepared to pay attention to things. We can become so focused on our digital devices that we no longer pay enough attention to people and activities around us. For example, at a café, you may see friends typing away or checking email, rather than talking to each other.
Some people say that mobile devices and the web have invaded our lives in a bad way, annoying our family and friends, causing us to be less physically active, making us feel stressed much of the time, and reducing the amount of productive activity. We need to have a high awareness of how digital tools may distract us from real human interaction and important activities.