What are some disadvantages of online communication?
Online communication like email, Facebook, Zoom, and Slack now seem to rule our lives. For most of us, the first thing we do in the morning is check three or four different sites for messages. Personal Email, then Work Email, Slack, Teams, and Facebook. Often followed by a ‘quick’ one-hour Zoom call. And then checking for new messages every 10 minutes for the rest of the day. What other problems do we face online? What do we need to watch out for now so many people works from home?
A word that once referred to a canned form of ham is now more known for annoying unsolicited messages. Despite filtering, we face a daily battle with marketers trying to get our attention. Reply-All is as bad, we can’t know whether a message is relevant without reading it. Information overload is a huge problem. Reaching inbox zero for many people is an impossible dream.
Fear of missing out is the dance partner to reply-all spam. Every instant message and email needs reading. We can’t say no to any meeting. All day filled with pointless communication. All because we may miss something important. On the flip side if we disconnect for more than 15 minutes people start to think we are slacking off. Gifs of tumbleweed meet us on our return. Those who reply immediately seem to managers as being the most productive. So we check for new messages all the time, every minute of the day.
As bad as spam is the opposite is worse. How many times have you messaged someone and got no response? Did they not see it? Or did they read it and forget to reply? Or as the doubt creeps in did they see it and decide not to reply. Once you corner someone in real life they have to say something. Not so online, they can always pretend to have been about to reply. Related is the unclear presence indicators of ‘instant’ chat tools. The ever-present green dot promises a quick response, but so often we end up disappointed.
A lack of physical cues is also a problem online. Emojis give some ability to reinforce the meaning, but misinterpretation is still rife. It is so easy to cause offense online we can become afraid to say anything.
Staying On Topic
Thread hijacking has been a problem since the early days of internet forums. Threaded messages can prevent information overload, but only when people stay on topic. Necroposting is the opposite problem of replying to ancient threads. This is an issue because the original writers are usually long gone and aren’t going to reply.
Privacy and Security
For all the convenience of being able to search through every message ever sent to you. There is also the downside that everything you ever say is permanent. Nothing can ever be 100% private. Security also becomes more of a problem. We once had someone terminated who logged into an online system and stole a list of investors’ emails. They then emailed all investors with complaints about the remaining team.
Connectivity and Technical Issues
“Can you see my screen?” marks the start of most Zoom meetings now. So sure are we that someone will have a technical issue we always have to ask. Not to mention robot voice quality issues and complete connection drops. Internet speed and quality is becoming more and more important to everybody. Realtors now report that buyers are asking about internet speed when viewing homes.
Monitoring and Tracking
Another pro-turned-con is the ability to track usage. From time spent online to the number of people that we communicate with. Nobody likes it when they are spied on.
The last problem can sneak up on us. Once our coworkers are online they can be anywhere in the world. IT moved to India, customer support to Scotland. It’s a slippery slope. Cutting costs a little here and a little there. Then one day you realize everything has gone and you are only left with an office full of managers. Then hiring people into the organization becomes difficult because promotion is impossible.