Many articles have been written about the differences between face-to-face communication and the variety of text-based communication found on the Internet. While many people treat IRC or Instant Message-type programs as being wholly equal to face-to-face, there are occasional misunderstandings due to not having the added information of facial expressions or gestures. For example, something intended to be taken humorously could be perceived as an opinion actually held, leading to a potential falling out. Or, quite often, there will be a conversation, where one person is reading what the other person has to say, but has nothing to add themselves.
In a face-to-face conversation, this isn’t a problem. The listener would be able to nod, and the speaker would realize that the listener is engaged in what is being said and wishes to hear more. However, in a solely text-based medium, there is no way to silently nod, and so if the other person doesn‘t reply in the natural pauses, the “speaker” may think the other party has gone idle, or worse, is bored.
Normally, to combat this, the “listener” will respond with comments of very little conversational value. Statements like “I see,” or “Yes,” or ‘That’s true,” that add very little to what’s being said. Sometimes the “listener” is forced to cheat and use constructions like “*nods*” to add false actions to the realm of words. Of course, even these types of comments can (intentionally or not) convey disinterest; to avoid this, the “listener” might feel compelled to respond with an Eliza-like parroting of what the “speaker” just wrote. These sorts of comments are not only as empty as the shorter phrases, but are even worse; these comments take longer to read by masking themselves as content. They can also occasionally derail the “speaker” from their main point if the parroted comment is perceived as a request for clarification on a certain point.