The breakup 2.0 did a great job of explaining how different elements of nonverbal communication are used when it comes to dating relationships. But since the book is now six years old, it’s no longer one hundred percent accurate in terms of how our generation uses social media. Many of the principles are still the same, but the ways of applying them are different.
One element that we’ve seen change over the years is media ideologies. A person’s ideologies are “their beliefs about how a medium communicates and structures communication,” (Gershon).
“The difference often lies not in the actual message, but in people’s understandings of the media,” (Gershon). Generally, people believe that email is a medium that communicates in a professional manner compared to text messages that usually are seen as a way to communicate in a more personal and perhaps casual manner. I do, however, think that we are slowly beginning to see a shift in the structure of text messaging. We’re starting to see more professionals that are willing to “discuss business” via text messages. But even the fact that text messaging is beginning to be viewed differently shows how ideologies about media still affect our communication. There is nothing inherent about a text message or a direct message on Twitter that makes it less effective or less professional. “[…] people’s media ideologies ensure that the same sentences are interpreted and experienced differently when read on a computer screen or on a cell phone,” (Gershon).
With it comes to romantic interests, media ideologies have a major impact. Millennials share a certain understanding about mediums of communication. Take email for example. Nobody that I have talked to has ever tried to ask someone out on a date via email. They won’t even consider “talking” to someone via email. They would, however, consider talking to someone via Direct Messaging on Twitter. Again, there is no inherent difference between these two mediums. It could even be argued that email would be more secure and more efficient for talking and asking someone out. But it doesn’t happen simply because of the ideologies that we hold when it comes to these mediums.
Media ideologies are closely related to second-order information. “Second-order information refers to the information that can guide you into understanding how particular words and statements should be interpreted.” (18) The most obvious example of second-order information is the medium in which the communication occurs. This goes back to media ideologies. Since we hold certain beliefs about different mediums of communication, we will interpret a message differently depending on how it is received. It’s not so much the words that are being communicated, but rather the means by which the words are communicated.
Second-order information has great impact when it comes to approaching romantic relationships. The impact is such that is can actually define whether there is any romantic interest at all. Imagine that a guy receives an email from one of his classmates that says, “Hey, we have that big exam coming up. Would you be interested in meeting up to study? We could meet at my house or your house if you’d like.” Since it’s an email, this guy knows that his classmate is probably just focused on studying for the exam and would like some help. There’s not a note at the bottom of the email that says, “I’m not really interested in dating you. I just want to study together.” It’s the medium of the message that implicitly gives second-order information that communicates exactly that.
But what if he received that exact same message via Twitter DM? It would communicate different interests. He would probably interpret it much differently than he would an email. To a guy, a DM from a girl in his class who is asking to study together means that she is interesting in more than just studying. Plus, she’s inviting him to her house. This invitation is taken at face value in an email, but it means a lot more when it comes in the form of a DM.
“Second-order information is not what is actually said but rather the background knowledge of a situation and expectations of communication that allows one to interpret words (Gershon, 123). Although the message does not explicitly say, “I am romantically interested in you,” the guy will believe that it’s very likely because of second-order information that accompanied her DM. According to Ilana Gershon, author of The Breakup 2.0, you cannot even send a message without it including second-order information—it automatically indicates how the sender would like the message received. Second-order information is a nonverbal that is unavoidable, so it’s a good idea to how to leverage it in order to communicate what you actually want to communicate.
Idioms of practice
There are certain messages that are expected to be delivered in specific ways. We know this to be true in the work place. If you were to receive any kind of formal message from your boss via Facebook Messenger you would be very surprised. Why is this? If Facebook has the capabilities to include all the features that you would use in a typical email, why would it be odd to receive a formal message through that medium? You can include a greeting, attachments, and nice closing, but people still don’t typically use it for business communications because it is an idiom of practice to use email for those kinds of messages—it’s been deemed the most appropriate means within that organization. Ilana Gershon explains in the book The Breakup 2.0 that “Idioms of practice point to how people have implicit and explicit intuitions about using different technologies that they have developed with their friends, family members, and coworkers,” (6).
Within the context of dating and relationships, it tends to vary a bit more depending on the group you’re associated with. “[…] people figure out together how to use different media and often agree on the appropriate social uses of technology by asking advice and sharing stories with each other,” (6). Since each social group has different stories and different advice, the idioms of practice will be different as well.
I’ve seen how idioms of practice play out when it comes to breaking up. I was sitting in a dorm room talking with a group of friends. This was one social group that I was a part of. Jalaber was explaining to us how her boyfriend had just broken up with her—over text! How rude of him! Everyone in the room was in agreement that it was very disrespectful of Tazon to break up with Jalaber via text message. The idiom of practice to this group was that the most respectful way to break up was in person. I don’t recall ever having conversation prior to that day about this subject. We had never even mentioned it. That’s because “Often implicit intuitions don’t become apparent until someone violates an expectation—perhaps by breaking up using the wrong medium,” (6).
It was interesting to see this from another point of view. Around the same time, I was also part of another social group. I was with this group at someone’s house when the subject came up. Daxten was telling us how his relationship with Indigo just wasn’t working out. He then proceeded to read to us the text message that he sent to Indigo. After reading it, everyone seemed okay with how he handled the situation. Nobody called him out for being rude. Most people agreed that it was courteous of him to do that. How was it possible that the response of this group was completely different from the other groups response? It all comes down to idioms of practice. The groups had differing stories and different advice for one another, and the implications of this nonverbal practice drastically changed the approach to breaking up.
Structure of the medium
The structure of the medium deals with the ways that a medium is able to shape communications. Communications is shaped through technological attributes, reliability of the medium, and the second-order information that comes with a message.
The technological attributes can affect the flow of a conversation. If you’re trying to have a rapid back-and-forth conversation, then email is probably not your best option. “[It] creates a sense of a monologue,” (Gershon, 54). When it comes to dating, text messaging is typically a good form
Twitter is a medium that is structured best for flirting. It’s great in the way that for a rapid-fire conversation when you want to go at that pace, but it also allows you to take your time without being rude. If you take a few hours to reply to a text message it might be considered rude. But with Twitter, since it’s acceptable to take a little while to reply. The structure of Twitter has another advantage when it comes to flirting. You can choose whether or not to have the notifications pop up on your phone. This way if you’re trying to keep your DMs on the DL, you’re able to do that. With text messaging, it’s much more difficult to hide since the text message alert with show up right on your home screen.
The two advantages mentioned above would be considered technological attributes. Simply because of the way the technology is structured it makes Twitter a great medium for flirting. But it also has some non-technological advantages. Twitter is can be leveraged when flirting by the way that it delivers second-order information. Direct Messaging on Twitter is known to our generation as a grounds for where flirting is expected to happen. This lies somewhere in the middle of media ideologies and idioms of practice. DMs are believed to be an acceptable place to message someone that you’ve never messaged before. And since it’s believed to be acceptable, people are more confident in their ability to communicate via second-order information.
Renly Zyron was a soccer player who was interested in a volleyball player by the name of Melrose Zyron. He swore that they weren’t related, but he wasn’t sure how to express his interest in her. He saw her at the Henderloins Dining Café every day, but it was much more difficult to express his interest to her in person. Twitter allowed him to open up an on-going conversation with implied second-order information that said, “I’m interested.” The context and expectations of the DM are so strong that he would have an advantage even if he used the exact same sentence that he did in the café, “Hey, what’s up?”
“People’s media ideologies and uses of one medium are always connected to people’s media ideologies and uses of other older or new media,” (Gershon, 92). Remediation plays a huge role in how people end relationships. A friend of mine chose to break up with her boyfriend via a hand-written letter. This stood out to everyone as a very strange way to break up. But it’s not because hand-written letters are strange in and of themselves, but rather all the modern alternatives to send the message. “Part of the reason remediation is so central to breakups is that there are currently so many options for transmitting the message ‘I want to break up,’” (Gershon, 94).