Social Media requires us to see communication differently than before

by eskokilpi

In the sender-receiver model of communication a thought arising within one individual is translated into words, which are then transmitted to another individual. At the receiving end, the words translate into the same thought, if the formulation of the words and the transmission of those words are good enough. Then the receiver of the message selects a response and gives feedback. The meaning is in the words. Following this thinking, the most demanding task in communication ends with the transmission. The sender’s focus is on the best possible translation of thoughts into words and on choosing the best possible transmission channels. There is however, a completely different approach to communication. The alternative view is based on the work of George Herbert Mead. This model does not see communication as messages/things/content that are transmitted or shared between senders and receivers, but as complex social action.

In the social act model, communication takes the form of a gesture made by an individual that evokes a response from someone else. The meaning of the gesture can only be known in the response. If I smile at you and you respond with a smile, the meaning of the gesture is friendly, but if you respond with a cold stare, the meaning of the gesture is contempt. Gestures and responses cannot be separated but constitute one social act, from which meaning emerges. Meaning is not in the words alone but also in the responses. Neither side can independently choose the meaning of the words or control the conversation. Thus you can never control communication. When working with Social Media, we need to see communication as a social act in which actions evoke reactions. Gestures call forth responses. These responses are not selected independently. The responses are elicited at the same time as they are selected. It pays to be involved and it pays to try to keep conversations going. The really demanding task of communication only starts with the transmission!

Thank you Doug Griffin and Ralph Stacey