DEBRA TANNEN: EVERY USE OR NONUSE OF TEXTING SENDS OUT METAMESSAGES. In this article in the Atlantic (April 17, 2017), Debra Tannen describes some of the array of signals that accompany the words in an electronic message. She calls them “metamessages”. She gives some examples.
*A woman kept her friends up to date on the course of her pregnancy by posting on Facebook. One friend objected. She reasoned that posting on Facebook as opposed to a phone conversation is so easy that it means nothing and creates a false sense of intimacy.
*Debra Tannen likes “xoxo” at the end of a message. It’s more affectionate than “Best” and “not as ‘fervent’ as ‘Love'”. One of her friends dislikes it because if something is too easy it’s meaningless or insincere.
*Most of Tannen’s students regard e mail as formal, and so in sending one to a professor, they would treat it as a business letter, with salutation, greeting, body of letter, closing, signature and name. Tannen now explains that she now adds all those formalities before sending an e mail to a student. I will continue to leave all those formalities out.
Tannen concludes: “Every word we speak is chock-full of metamessages telling others not only how we mean what we say but also who we are.”