Reading Between the Lines

Can You Read - The Anti-Social MediaI’m a terrible reader.

When I was young, they tested me for being gifted and talented. It turned out I can solve mathematical problems like nobody’s business. But, if you asked me to look for meaning beyond the face value of the words set down in front of me, I fail miserably.

That’s why it never surprises me when people take things out of context online.

It’s easy to humanize someone talking in front of you. You see their face and hear the words coming from their lips. Their tone rises and falls, and they gesture with their words. It’s easier to figure out what they intended, because it’s right there in front of you, and if you’re still not getting it, you can be a moron and ask them.

Humanizing an avatar is much harder. You can’t tell how much suffering happens to a face that’s always smiling. You can ask someone to explain, but your explanation comes from more words.  Reading between the lines becomes a chore.

Unfortunately, we’re bombarded with too much information to make that effort. Reading online is a chore, not a pleasure. Where before we had to think deeply about what the author meant because we couldn’t reach them, we can now take thirty seconds and reach out to the author.

Is the answer to think harder? To write better? To just ask the author? A combination  I don’t know.

The only thing I know is there is always a human behind the words, and that human has more of story to tell than what little they blogged.

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3 Responses to “Reading Between the Lines”

  1. Maggie March 17, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Great post! And great points! And I too have always been really great at math but terrible at reading comprehension. It got to the point that in college I just skipped assigned readings altogether because they truly were a waste of my time. I just took really detailed notes during lectures.

  2. Morgan March 17, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Cheers for this! I would say there’s never any harm to actually asking them. We’re all human and I’m sure it would surprise them to hear someone asking them. In fact, since writer’s are solitary beings, they’d probably relish in the human connection.

    I also think there are way too many serious people on the interwebs. And people who are trying to sound smarter than they actually are by ‘reading between the lines’…that aren’t even there.

  3. Elena Patrice March 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Oh you have such good posts this week (even with well-deserved post about it being a non-post day!) ;) . I think taking things out of context occurs more often than not and is becoming an even greater issue. I go back and read something I wrote, responded to or emailed and where I wrote “should …” when I really meant “should not …” because my mind is totally reading as I’m thinking it and my typing either fails or it’s just not computing. That’s not exactly what you’re referring to; however, along the same vein. Actually a good example is exactly what happened when you wrote me a response one time and it wasn’t until the middle of the night that it actually hit me what you DID “say” in your writing (then I felt stupid because I thought something totally different). I did ask you, but the answer came as I was literally visualizing your tone in my head and they it came to me … weird, but it worked. So … traveling 12 times around the barn to get to my answer is that I think asking the author is ok and most are very happy to respond. Surely, bloggers suffer the same from responses as well?!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post! Elena