Few would argue, in this technological age, that we often interact with one another more via electronic media than face to face, even voice to voice. We’ve talked about this here before.
Isn’t it interesting, when we communicate with someone over a prolonged period via only technology—without ever meeting or even speaking—how our impressions are shaped, based solely on e-mail or social media interaction? What happens, then, when we later come face to face with these same people? How do they match up to our expectations, and we to theirs?
I’m currently working on a writing project for a client (actually, a client’s client), with whom all interaction has been via e-mail. Until Friday, when I visited her work site.
Her name is Bea. I’d gotten to know Bea over the last month or so, passing ideas, comments and drafts back and forth. And, presumably, she has gotten to know me.
My mind had sketched a picture of Bea, based on the only Bea I’d ever known—Aunt Bea, from The Andy Griffith Show. I imagined Bea to be roly-poly, with a bouffant do, speaking in a shrill, quivering voice. (I suppose she could have been more of a Bea Arthur, but that Bea never sprung to mind until this moment.)
I arrived onsite Friday afternoon as a woman greeted me. She was about my age, with my length hair, maybe a little shorter, a little darker, same basic style. Dressed casually. Normal voice.
We shook hands, smiled, said things like, “It’s nice to finally to meet you in person.”
I could see that was puzzled by my appearance.
She commented, “For some reason I pictured you as being English, about 65, writing by candlelight,” as she made a writing gesture in the air. Pen-writing, not keyboard-writing. The gesture was as though her air pen had a quill on the end of it.
Wow. She had formed an impression of me, based on my writing, in my e-mail messages and in the copy I produced, and basically come up with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
Perhaps it’s the nature of the content that elicited my stilted style. Or is it simply the way I write, admittedly more formally and politely when addressing a client’s client?
Now I ask you – those of you who don’t know me personally – based on what you read on this blog, how do you picture its writer? And no fair peeking at my Gravatar.
Go ahead, I can take it.