Communication Minimalism: Fostering Intimacy Online and Offline
Wed, April 21, 2021

Communication Minimalism: Fostering Intimacy Online and Offline

With dozens of connected devices that people use every day, there is no sign that data is slowing down. The number of internet users just continues to grow and more than 50% of the world’s web traffic is now coming from mobile phones / Photo by Vadim Georgiev via 123RF


With dozens of connected devices that people use every day, there is no sign that data is slowing down. The number of internet users just continues to grow and more than 50% of the world’s web traffic is now coming from mobile phones. At our current pace, people create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day worldwide.  Our love affair with social media platforms has also fueled data creation. This only means that we are overloaded with entertainment, communication, and information, shortening people’s attention, stated US-based cloud software company Domo in its Data Never Sleeps 5.0 report.


Less Is More When It Comes to Communication

Communication minimalism is one solution to get away from the pressure that social media brings. It is a trend online and offline that removes the complexity in communication and focuses more on feeling it instead of doing it. Tim Leberecht, the author of the book “The Business Romantic” and founder of a firm that helps organizations create transformative stories, experiences, and visions, shared that the concept of communication minimalism is saying less and feeling more.

Social media exhausts users in the dopamine rat rate on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. It is a boundless and unregulated marketplace that puts them in a 24-hour competition to be recognized by others for Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), not being with someone, and of not being good enough. Young people are mostly the victims of it and they are struggling to communicate. They feel the need to navigate with several possible identities online because of experience overload. This is also why suicide and depression rates have increased among young people in the US.

The German-American author went on to say that communication minimalism removes the complexity and the need to be accurate but rather focuses on what people feel. It “does not have to be true but rather feel true,” he added. Intimacy is a much-needed companion but is a scarce resource. Loneliness, social isolation, and mental illness are increasing.

The Reported Frequency of Loneliness by Age

Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, surveyed in 2017 people living in England about how often they feel lonely. They were made to choose from these five response categories: often/always, sometimes, occasionally, hardly ever, and never.

The research found that 10% of the respondents who were between 16 and 24 years old were often or always lonely, 23% of them some of the time, 27% occasionally, 29% hardly ever, and 11% never. For 25 to 34 years old, they answered: often or always (6%), some of the time (18%), occasionally (28%), hardly ever (30%), and never (18%). For 35 to 44 years old, they answered: often or always (5%), some of the time (12%), occasionally (24%), hardly ever (25%), and never (24%). After age 50, loneliness tended to decrease until about 75 years as it started to increase again. The authors explained that the increase in loneliness after participants reach 75 years was because of a decline in their health or the loss of a partner or spouse.

Emotional and Social Pressures and Conversational Health

Aside from personal branding and self-promotion that create emotional and social pressures on social media, many people have also fallen victim to fake news. “A lie that is repeated a million times becomes a fact,” Philippine-based journalist and activist Maria Ressa said in her talk in Munich. MIT scholar Sinan Aaral was also among the panel, who mentioned that even half-truths can be spread virally because it contains enough truth and enough fabricated story that provokes people’s imagination.

Phatic Communication

There is another type of communication mentioned by Leberecht and that is the phatic communication. It is a verbal or non-verbal communication with a social function of starting a conversation, saying goodbye, or greeting someone instead of having an informative function.

The phatic quality of communication is best exemplified by a Bond Touch bracelet. “Be together, even when you’re apart,” the product maker shared in its platform. It is a touch bracelet that brings long-distance family members, friends, or lovers closer by letting them know that they are thinking about them. One user can send a digital touch in the bracelet and the other’s wristband will light up and vibrate. There are no words, but light and touch give an idea to the other user that someone is thinking of them. The product maker has not relied upon sending text messages but a digital touch. Thus, it satisfies the need for simplicity in relationships and communications. Others may consider it disturbing, but many find it helpful to foster intimacy and connection.

With all the constant noise that social media brings, the idea of communication minimalism is not so bad after all. It does not record every word we post online and there is no need to feel reserved or hold back. Leberecht has reminded people that words can also be weapons as much as they can be used as gifts. They must be used not to limit possibilities or harm.

Amount of Data Generated Every Day

In the 2017 Domo report, it also highlighted that LinkedIn gained more than 120 new professionals and Snapchat users shared 527,760 photos every minute. It also detailed other platforms and the amount of data they generated every minute: Nextflix users streamed 69,444 hours of video, Giphy served 694,444 gifs, the Weather Channel received 18,055,555.56 forecast requests, Amazon made US$258,751.90 in sales, Tumblr users published 74,220 posts, Wikipedia users published 600 new page edits, Google conducted 3,607,080 searches, Buzzfeed users viewed 50,925.92 videos, Venmo processed US$51,892 peer-to-peer transactions, Uber riders took 45,787.54 trips, Spotify added 13 new songs, Americans used 2,657,700 GB of internet data, Instagram users posted 46,740 photos, Skype users made 154,200 calls, Twitter users sent 456,000 tweets, and YouTube users watched 4,146,600 videos.

So much information is at our fingertips and we contribute to the data that continues to stockpile. From sending emails to text messages, there is a certain data trail that we leave. There is no sign that all these will slow down plus there is also the Internet of Things (smart devices) that add up. But if we do want to establish connections and foster intimacy with people closer to us, our communication doesn’t have to be complicated.