Sarcasm is hard to catch in text because there are no other cues for you to go off of, like tone of voice or body language. That’s why it’s best saved for people you have a close relationship with, not professional correspondence. And even then, a recent study suggests friends and family still probably won’t get it.
Photo by m01229.
The study, published in the journal of Human Connection Research, found that not even the closest friends of study participants were capable of judging the emotional tone of their emails. In fact, they were no better at interpreting sarcasm than a random person off the street that didn’t know the sender at all. The researchers note that most of us take things for granted when it comes to communicating with our friends and close relations, like assuming they will know when we’re being sarcastic when other people wouldn’t. But that’s not the case.
The study suggests that no matter how well your recipient knows you, there’s a good chance they won’t get your jokes or sarcastic remarks in your written messages. That can lead to some serious misunderstandings under the right circumstances, or, at the very least, some time wasted trying to explain things. And while email was the only method of communication tested in the study, the same can probably be said for text messaging. So you might want to save the sarcasm for when you’re in person, or at least consider using some emoji whenever possible.
Overconfidence at the Keyboard: Confidence and Accuracy in Interpreting Affect in email Exchanges [Human Connection Research via Science of Us]