A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.
One of the more interesting things I see happening is how communication is evolving to become increasingly more visual. With this evolution, I propose that nonverbal communication is also becoming more intimate. This is being driven largely by younger generations, but their initiative to use more visual tools to communicate is driving adoption across generations.
Communication evolves with technology
Technology has opened the door to many different communication options. With each new technological advance, communication has evolved in new ways, as new options to communicate were invented. Visual communication is the most recent advancement. This is not just limited to static images or the wide world of emoji, which lets us express ourselves in visual ways. Snapchat has helped usher in a communication style based on self-expression via video.
More interesting examples come from messaging apps like WeChat and Line, which offer unique stickers as a way to communicate. Building upon what makes emoji a valuable communications tool, stickers bring a different style of graphic art to be used to express ourselves. But what all these things have in common are the additional options they present outside of verbal and text-based means of communicating. Where these additional expressions of self and alternate communication styles get interesting is when they become intimate in ways that body language, facial expression and words with inside meaning do in the physical world.
Within my inner circle, very close friends and family, my wife and my children, our many years together have led to what may only be described as our own language. I may use a phrase like, “I’m in a pit of despair” or “I need to go do the laundry” or “I’m the dude” or “SIE,” or any in a long list of other phrases. I assure you, their meaning has nothing to do with the phrase, but each means something to someone in my inner circle, and often no one else knows its meaning. Our intimacy has led to the development of our own set of words and phrases that have deeper meaning in a uniquely intimate way.
The rise of visual communication has broadened our ability to expand this unique language created out of intimacy into the digital world. There are now stickers and emoji that exist between my wife and close friends that have deeper meaning beyond their visual representation. Often, the person on the other end of the conversation is the only person who understands the meaning.
Visual communication now extends the options for this unique and intimate communication style by not limiting us to just words or phrases but also including pictures and images. Taking this even further, the Apple Watch has extended visual communication options into physical sensations via digital touch and drawings.
For those in my inner circle who have Apple Watches, which includes my wife and 12-year-old daughter, we have already created our own secret language using digital touch and drawings. For my wife and daughter, this is particularly more advanced between us, but we have agreed upon a number of tap sequences that mean different things. We also have a range of drawings which we created to also mean certain things. A series of taps or a simple drawn image all have deeper context and meaning known only to a few of us.
Communication is, at our core, an essential human behavior. Technology continues to evolve and give us more ways to communicate and invoke emotion with words, text, audio, images, digital touch, real-time drawings and whatever comes next.
Ben Bajarin is a principal analyst at Creative Strategies Inc., an industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Reach him @BenBajarin.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.