No emoji beats face time (Part 1)

15 February 2018Myra Knoesen

In part one of this article we will delve into social media’s effect on our ability to interact and communicate versus old traditional methods such as face to face communication.

It’s about the reach

Conventional wisdom tells us that face to face communication is more effective than other types of communication such as telephone or email.

No smiley face can replace the warmth conveyed by the smiling eyes of a loved one; no cartoon red face can show the genuine embarrassment we show when we blush, no amount of LOLs can tell us when someone is having a belly laughter with tears in his eyes.

Vanessa K. Bohns, an Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the ILR School at Cornell University and author of ‘A Face-to-Face Request Is 34 Times More Successful than an Email’ says, “You could send an email to 200 of your friends, family members, and acquaintances. Or you could ask a few of the people you encounter in a typical day—face-to-face—to donate to a cause you care about. Which method would mobilise more people for your cause?”

“Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast. Still, most people tend to think the email ask will be more effective,” continues Bohns.

The argument in favour of face time is that telephone or email communication lacks important nonverbal cues to help us understand the message.

The power of persuasiveness

In research Mahdi Roghanizad of Western University and Bohns conducted, 45 participants asked 450 strangers (10 strangers each) to complete a brief survey. All participants made the exact same request following the exact same script; however, half of the participants made their requests over email, while the other half asked face-to-face.

People were much more likely to agree to complete a survey when they were asked in-person as opposed to over email. These findings are consistent with previous research showing that people are more likely to comply with requests in person than over email.

Participants who made requests over email felt essentially just as confident about the effectiveness of their requests as those who made their requests face-to-face, even though face-to-face requests were 34 times more effective than emailed ones.

“Why do people think of email as being equally effective when it is clearly not? In our studies, participants were highly attuned to their own trustworthiness and the legitimacy of the action they were asking others to take when they sent their emails. Anchored on this information, they failed to anticipate what the recipients of their emails were likely to see: an untrustworthy email asking them to click on a suspicious link,” said Bohns.

“Indeed, when we replicated our results in a second study we found the nonverbal cues requesters conveyed during a face-to-face interaction made all the difference in how people viewed the legitimacy of their requests, but requesters were oblivious to this fact,” continued Bohns.

In part two of the article we will look at the shift in communication, media’s effect on our ability to interact and what is missing.



Bookmark and Share


Quick Polls


Government has raised the VAT rate. How will this impact short term insurance policies?


There will be a lot of confusion. If a policy is written at 14% and subsequently cancelled (at 15%), how much is the refunded amount?
All will be ok. The industry has had time to prepare for the VAT increase.
Government has really not thought through what the unintended consequences of the increase would be.
AE fanews magazine
FAnews February 2018 EditionGet the latest issue of FAnews

This month's headlines

Viceroy in the purview of the FSB
The fundamental right to work
AI for dummies
‘Day Zero’ the day taps are anticipated to run dry
Pre-existing conditions: insuring the uninsurable
Subscribe now