Electronic Communication In This Evolving Society English Language Essay

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Introduction

As time passes, society evolves-and so does the way people communicate with one another. Previously, people would have to write a letter and have it delivered to make long distance contact: a process that took about a few days. But with electronic communication, contacting someone has never been easier. There are various means of communication, devices, and forms of etiquette associated with electronic communication that will allow you to easily keep in touch with a loved one.

Means of Communication

It is understood that this type of communication requires messages to be sent via electronic means; however, "electronic" is not enough to classify the type of message sent. There are various types of electronic communication; 9 of the most well known ones are:

Telephone Call

Fax

E-mail

Text Messaging

Instant Messaging

Voice Chat

Webcamming

Bulletin Boards

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Telephone Call. Calling someone consists of connecting from your phone to theirs. Once connected, the phones will be able to pick up sound and transmit it to the other person's phone-including human voices. This makes it a simple and popular way to talk to someone like you would face to face, but over a long distance. Calls can be made using any type of phone: from a stationary pay phone, to a portable cellular phone. It is not entirely free, however; fees are charged for the phone line, and sometimes for long distance calls. Payment on a cellular phone depends on the provider's plan. Inserting coins into a pay phone is another example of paying to use the service.

Fax. A fax is similar to a telephone call, but it transmits documents in addition to sound. Similar to a letter, this means of communication is in a tangible form after it is printed out, but it is a much faster arrival after being sent and you do not receive the actual document; it is just being copied onto a different sheet of paper. Because faxing uses the same phone line as you would for calling someone, the same fees for the phone line apply. However, online faxing is now available, which consists of sending the document over the Internet rather than a phone line.

E-mail. E-mail stands for "electronic mail", which is exactly as it sounds. Users can compose a virtual letter by keying in the characters, and then send it to a recipient. The message then sends via the Internet, and arrives in the recipient's inbox in a matter of minutes. Each user has their own e-mail address, used to identify the recipient and sets the destination for each e-mail. E-mailing has replaced traditional mailing, which requires stamps and takes much longer to reach the recipient. While tangible things cannot be sent through e-mail, files can be attached, such as pictures, documents, songs, etc. Along with these, harmful viruses that can harm your data can also be sent through e-mail as well-so use caution when opening suspicious e-mails. E-mail is usually free, but an Internet connection is required for it to work. Internet connection payment depends on type and speed.

Text Messaging. Perhaps one of the most popular ways to communicate electronically is via text messaging, or "texting". Using a cellular phone, the user can send short messages usually consisting of about 160 characters or less to another person's cellular phone. Messages sent take approximately a few seconds to arrive in the recipient's inbox. However, this method of electronic communication can also require payment; payment plans are left up to the cellular phone provider. Nevertheless, it is a very quick and easy way to get in touch with someone without much hassle.

Instant Messaging. Instant messaging, also known as "IMing" or "chatting", is a great way to hold a conversation in forms of small, individual messages composed through keying. However, unlike e-mail, instant messaging is real-time. Each message sent immediately appears for the recipient without having a formal "letter" to open, hence the word "instant". An instant messaging conversation could be held as a phone call would, but only through keying. The rate of the conversation rests on the sender and recipient's typing speeds and reply rates. Instant messaging also makes group chats possible, allowing more than 2 people to send and receive messages, and to view the ongoing conversation. Most instant messaging programs are free to use-however, instant messages are sent via the Internet, and again, prices for Internet connection vary.

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Voice Chat. Very similar to a phone call, a voice chat allows users to to transmit audio to other users, but via the Internet instead. While there are specific programs made only for voice chatting, voice chat capability is also available on many instant messaging programs. It allows one to speak to another in real-time with the use of a microphone, while still being able to send typed instant messages at the same time.

Webcamming. A more advanced version of voice chatting is webcamming; along with sound, webcamming also transmits images in a form of a video via the Internet. It can be broadcast publicly or from one user to the other and vice versa (also commonly known as "videoconferencing", or a "video conference"). With the use of a device that comes equipped with a camera and microphone dubbed the "webcam", webcamming allows people to converse with one another as if they were face-to-face-everything captured by the webcam is transmitted in real-time. Like voice chat, most instant message programs can include video conference capability.

Bulletin Boards. Electronic bulletin boards, sometimes referred to as "message boards" or even "Internet forums", are similar to traditional bulletin boards. People can post public messages, which can range from advertising something, announcing an upcoming event, to just starting a discussion over almost any topic. Other people can come and leave messages as well, contributing to a topic already created or creating one of their own. Some bulletin boards would require you to create an account and sign in to post a message, but others are open to the whole public to post as a desired name or as "anonymous." Internet forums may have policies and rules on what content the user is allowed to post, courtesy guidelines, etc.

Social Networking. Now seemingly playing a huge role in society, social networking is basically all about connecting with other people. Users create a profile that includes various information and media about the user, and are able to connect to many other profiles of other users as well. People can view pictures and videos, status updates, and more and comment on them, as well as being able to send private messages to others. Social networking allows one to be able to stay connected and up-to-date with friends, family, and even current issues. Ideas spread, new ideas form, and peer reviews are beginning to make a bigger impact-and because of how much social networking connects everyone around the world, word gets around quickly; businesses are taking advantage of this and social networking is now one of the more effective ways to advertise. Examples of the top social networking sites are:

Facebook

MySpace

Bebo

Friendster

Devices

In order to communicate electronically, you require something that you can communicate with. There are many devices that can perform such a task; nowadays, you might spot at least one of these almost everyday of your life. The most common ones include:

Telephones

Cellular Phones

Fax Machines

Computers

Game Consoles

Telephones. One of the most significant steps toward electronic communication was the invention of the telephone. Telephones were able to transmit sound from one phone to another; people were able to contact anyone else that had a phone and talk to them personally over a long distance. It was and still remains a valuable tool to have for the sake of contacting others. As time passes, many types of phone models were built, until one day, they finally became cordless--but could only keep the connection a certain distance away from from its base station connected to the phone line required for telephones to work.

Cellular Phones. Unlike cordless phones, there is a type of phone that can used wherever you please. Cellular phones, also known as cell or mobile phones, are portable devices that can be used to contact someone anywhere there is reception. The ability to call others may be one of the most basic features it has-nowadays, cell phones include many other applications, such as e-mail, Internet complete with web browsers, instant messaging and are very popular for text messaging; cell phones are a major contributor to electronic communication. In today's society, most people own a cell phone, and because of its small size, it can be brought along wherever at all times (unless specified otherwise)--making it very easy to contact a wide array of people using this device. There may be certain charges for using some of the services and features it has, depending on the cell phone provider's plan.

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Fax Machines. Along with being able to transmit sound like a regular telephone, a fax machine allows a document to be sent from one machine to another via phone lines. When a call is made to another fax machine, the document to be sent is scanned by the machine itself. As the receiver answers the phone call, paper that is preset in the fax machine will have the sent document printed out onto it. Because of the Internet's growing popularity, most people would send documents as a file attachment on an e-mail instead--but faxing is still used, and alternative methods such as online faxing also exists.

Computers. Computers are also standard issue today. They can do the widest array of tasks, but the cell phone is slowly adapting many of its programs and capabilities. Computers are most popular for web surfing, and are able to access social networking sites, Internet forums, e-mail, and more. Users can also instant message, voice chat, or video conference by either installing a program or using a web browser. It is also possible to text message and fax online. Aside from electronic communication, computers can store files such as important documents, pleasant memories, or your favorite songs, keep your life organized, and entertain you with thousands of applications and programs. There are threats to computers, however: harmful viruses that can steal or harm your data. They can sneak into your computer via the Internet, so take caution and install anti-virus and spyware programs.

Game Consoles. With video gaming on the rise as a popular source of entertainment, recent game consoles now have the ability to connect to WiFi. Aside from being able to play with and compete against other players, this allows one to send e-mail, instant message, voice chat, surf the web, or even interact with others in-game. Of course, these features vary on the type of game console and/or whether or not the actual video game supports such features, but they are not uncommon. Video gaming and its consoles make a great combination of gaming and electronic communication.

Etiquette

As with manners at the dinner table, there are also guidelines to electronic communication. Because many of the means of communication do not allow you to visually see who you are you are communicating with, it is very easy to misinterpret what one intends without the use of body language. There are various forms of etiquette that one can follow to avoid being a bother, and may help them correctly leave the impression they wish to leave.

Capitalization. Of course, when keying a formal message, one must use proper capitalization. But for informal messages to your acquaintances and loved ones, it is more acceptable to stray away from the correct guidelines of capitalization, such as composing sentences in all lowercase letters. However, it is considered bad etiquette to abuse capitalization and choosing to capitalize many whole words at a time. In electronic communication, it is thought to be yelling or putting extra loud emphasis on a word. To use caps lock the entire time would be inappropriate or rude and may leave the impression that you are yelling, being angry, and/or attempting to start an argument. Only capitalize whole words in moderation, if you are certain you want to place extra importance/emphasis.

Emoticons. One may use emoticons--a form of textual expression--to establish the emotion or mood of the topic. Because body language is not present in textual electronic communication, emoticons can serve as an alternative method. One may put a ":)", indicating a smiling face, to show the lightheartedness of what is said, or ":(" representing frowning, to express disappointment or sadness. There are many emoticons to be used that fit the situation at hand. Emoticons can avoid the intention of the message to be misinterpreted--for example, one may understand their companion is only joking when a ":)" is placed after a comment that could be taken as insulting otherwise. However, while emoticons are popular among informal conversations between acquaintances, it is considered inappropriate and unprofessional to use them in formal letters or in academic work.

Abbreviations. In textual electronic communication, abbreviations are often used to save time and space. One may write "LOL" standing for "Laugh Out Loud", and "TTYL" standing for "Talk To You Later". There are many abbreviations and are now often used while communicating for a shorter version of the same message. While these abbreviations are well-known among everyday texters and instant messengers, it is seen as very juvenile or improper way of getting your message across. It is forbidden from formal messages or academic work--but even to some people, abbreviations even in informal conversations are confusing, distracting, and may actually become more of an effort to understand as opposed to the full, unshortened phrase. Also, many who do not use a textual form of electronic communication are often unaware what many of the abbreviations stand for. Be considerate about who you are talking to and only use abbreviations in moderation--ones that you know the recipient will understand!

Conclusion

Electronic communication is now a way of life and the easiest way to contact someone over a long distance. While there are various means of communication to discover, devices to own, and types of etiquette one must be able to grasp to be fully successful in electronic communication, it is currently "the" way to get in touch with your loved ones, or carry out your business discussions. Will you join society with its virtual ways in this new digital age?