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Tips on communicating in the digital age, just in time for Valentine's Day

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 6:15 p.m.

Be it tweets, texts, snaps, emoji or email, technology has made it easier to communicate than ever.

But it has also made it harder.

Should I call? Should I text? Twitter DM? Maybe just a Facebook message.

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If you wait too long to like a selfie, it's over. If you like it too quick, you're a creeper.

Navigating communication in a relationship is hard enough, but throw in the constant chirping and chatter of today's connected society and it can be rife with pitfalls, potholes, wrong turns and dead ends. But technology can also help us communicate more effectively, keep up relationships over long distances and find new relationships based on shared interests, said Janie Harden Fritz, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Duquesne University.

"Some people would be delighted to get text: 'Love you' or 'Can't wait to see you,' " Fritz said. "Others would like, 'I want to hear that face-to-face. It's not quite the same.' "

Fritz is not technologically savvy. She got her first cellphone in 2007. She's on LinkedIn but not active on other social media. She talks about Plato and Aristotle like they're old friends. But as communication has evolved, so have her studies and courses.

Fritz said technology has never replaced face-to-face communication. It has added to it. The telegraph and telephone added ways we could communicate. So did the internet, email, text messages and social media.

"I teach about human relationships, no matter what the modality," Fritz said. "The telephone, the cellphone, the internet, it's 'How do people find meaning in their life?' Relationships give us meaning."

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Fritz gave a few tips on how to better communicate in this digital age.

• Develop rules with your partner. Figure out when a call is expected versus a text and what should be said face-to-face. Fritz said these rules take time to develop and new couples might struggle.

• Keep private things private. Use common sense when deciding what to post for the world to see. Fritz said we've been a bit cavalier with our sharing — even developing "post sharing syndrome," a phenomenon in which we regret what we've shared moments after posting it — but she hopes as we mature with the technology, we might become a bit more thoughtful and cautious about what we share.

• Know the person's love language. Love languages are the ways people prefer to show and receive affection, whether through actions, touch, words or other ways. Fritz said once you learn a person's love language, you can use technology to express it. Just "make it count."

• Focus on the person. Whether you're face-to-face or texting while miles apart, give the people you care about your uninterrupted attention. If you're out on a date, put the cellphones away so that no one can intrude on that moment, Fritz said.

"Make that person the only person in your world at that moment," Fritz said. "Let that person know that you care."

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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