Communicating in the Digital World - English

The Book of Faces

By Zlatin Georgiev26.05.2015Culture and Society

We spend much of our lives online. It’s time to communicate there as we do in person, and our rich, personalized online presences can speak volumes in a setting where body language is off the table.

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inkje / photocase.de

This is a well-known secret: human communication is divided into three parts: seven percent are the actual words or content, 38 percent are based on vocals (tone, pitch, and speed of talking), and 55 percent pertain to visuals (body language or eye contact). While everyone’s amazed by the very limited role that actual words play in communication, the other 93 percent still get considerably less attention. This seems a paradox, especially in Europe with its plethora of languages — 24 within the EU alone. But it can also be logically explained. Most of our communication runs through media such as texting, Viber, Whatsapp, Tinder, or plain old emails that focus on those mentioned seven percent. We invest so much time and thought in putting everything “in the right words”.

We complain about the digitalization of communication, yet it seems like this is the future. So instead of complaining, let’s do an experiment and try to adapt accordingly. Pretend for a moment that you can’t talk or type and instead focus on the remaining 93 percent in the digital world. What would you do? How would you get to know someone online? And how would you allow the other to get to know you?

Without any words, we all already create our little virtual space with a more or less stylish facade. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, you name it. We generate so much content that it all becomes the biggest library in history with each one of us being a single book. So big in fact, that you can see patterns and if you look very closely, you can even see some logic behind it all. For me, this logic is no different from the logic followed when studying a new language. Let me walk you through some of the basics.

A: Appearance

A picture’s worth a thousand words. It tells how much you care about the number of likes or expresses how you are feeling. The key here, though, is in the details. If you want to learn more about the person you are getting to know, look for the location of the photo, the clothes, friends present in the picture, animals, or food. Most importantly, the face tells a story of its own. Did you know that happy people smile even when they are serious? Their muscles around the mouth form in such way that reflects the number of smiles per day. Happy people always have upwards edges in both corners of the mouth and wrinkles around it. However, if you want to really learn more about the person, don’t bother with the profile picture or Instagram images. Go for the “unexpected tags”. There you are likely to see his or her natural behavior. For example, if you still like a girl or boy on the photos he or she is tagged in, there’s a big chance you would also like them if you went out.

B: Bookmarks

Most people spend hours every day on the internet: supporting a cause, promoting a page of a friend or subscribing for the latest news, we all personalize our personal or professional digital environments. The key here is not to look at the single likes, but look for patterns. What kind of places does somebody like to go to? What are favorite TV series? What pages are mostly shared? Let me give you a personal example. I like to inspire and to be inspired. Although it’s harder to find inspiration in my daily routines, I always try, following pages like WhereCoolThingsHappen.com and TwistedSifter.com. Animal lovers can be recognized by the number of cats pictures or baby animal videos on their walls, while artists almost always post beautiful, sometimes even confusing images. Supported causes are also a giveaway. We all like to feel involved in making a change, and mostly we do it by a like or a share. In the future, this might be the beginning of a nice conversation or an argument.

C: Channels

Video sharing brought the internet to a whole new level. Personally, I don’t even own a TV. Everything I need and like is always just a few clicks away. If you judge by the number of car channels I follow on Youtube, It won’t be difficult to see what I do in my spare time. I believe the same goes for most of us. Videos express what captured our attention for more than 10 seconds, unless of course it’s on Vine. So how can you capture someone’s attention for more than 10 seconds? Try looking at the videos he or she shared, especially when it comes to music. Music taste is almost like the face of a person. Music can tell you much, it can make you feel good or sad. It often enough also reflects the variety of things that the person has been through. There are so many styles out there, and each person has a unique compilation of all these styles. It is one of my favorite things to go through different people’s playlists. It helps me not only to get a good guess, who the other person is and whether we might get along, but also pushes me to try new things and see the outcome.

Having been through the basics, I urge you to go back to our little experiment. Open some of your friends’ digital books, or try a completely new one. Without words in it, you can still read it. When you finish it, explore the findings in the real world and get to know the details of the real 93 percent. It is worth it!

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