Though you may not realize it, most communication is done through body language rather than words. In fact, about 93% of communication is nonverbal, with 55% of communication being body language. So although many people believe they are connecting with their friends and loved ones through conversation, they are actually deepening the bond through subtle nonverbal cues.

By Megan 

However, we now live in a technological age where much communication happens through text, social media, and video chatting. In these mediums, the typical rules of body language do not apply as it is much harder to pick up on those nonverbal cues when not in the same room as the person you are interacting with.


This not only makes these online conversations harder to decode but can also affect the ability to decipher body language when in a real-life conversation. In fact, a study found that people who had a high dependence on technology did quite poorly when assessed on their ability to decipher body language.


However, it is not always easy to notice that we struggle to read body language. In fact, the participants in that study believed they were great at reading body language. This article will go over some ways that you may struggle to read body language if you are overly dependent on technology.

Talking Too Much

Social media and text messaging have improved their services to ensure that all participants engage in conversation equally. For example, some phones will indicate when the other person is texting so that you know to wait to respond. Furthermore, some social media platforms limit the number of characters in each post to prevent a wall of text or someone ranting.


Body language is usually used to indicate when your turn is over for speaking. Conversations are no fun if someone takes over and doesn’t allow others to contribute. However, if you struggle to read body language, it won’t be easy to figure out when it’s best to stop talking and allow someone else to join in.


Being mindful is key here. Use self-awareness to detect if you take over conversations. Furthermore, keep an eye on how your audience reacts to you. Do they seem disengaged? Or are they trying to speak but get cut off because you want to get another word in? Allow time for others to respond so that the conversation is more balanced.

Not Mirroring Body Language

One sign that two people are connecting well is by mirroring body language. Mirroring is a sign of trust and empathy, which are crucial to starting and establishing relationships and connections.


Since people often don’t see the person they are interacting with online, they have no idea what nonverbal cues they are exhibiting. Therefore, they can’t mirror their body language to deepen the connection.


This crucial act of nonverbal communication can be easily forgotten if most of your interactions are online. Mindfulness is once again important here. Making an effort to mimic your peer’s emotions and nonverbal cues will show that you care about them and are engaged in the conversation.


For example, if someone is discussing a tragedy in their life and their tone of voice and body language show they are sad, then use similar tactics to exhibit your empathy and sadness. Change the tone of your voice as well as your facial expression to display your sadness.

Personal Space

Since the idea of personal space does not exist in social media, this can lead to confusion about personal space in real life. However, every person requires a certain amount of space from others to feel comfortable with them while conversing.


However, this is a trickier form of body language to decode as everyone has different needs with personal space. Furthermore, their requirements change depending on who they are with. For example, a person may require an acquaintance to stand a few feet away from them but will allow their partner to stand close to their side.


Keep an eye out for any signs of tension or discomfort when near someone. Some people may even physically back away about a foot or two to get more space. Allow them this space and continue to converse cordially without taking the act personally.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is probably the most important form of body language. Looking into someone’s eyes shows that you respect them and that you are listening intently to what they are saying.


Furthermore, the eyes are considered the window to the soul. You pick up a lot on what someone feels through the expression in their eyes. By not making eye contact, you may be missing essential details in the conversation that are not being communicated verbally.


One of the downsides to technology is that it has dramatically reduced the average attention span. For example, people often quickly switch from one TikTok to another, taking very little time to process what they just watched. This makes it difficult to focus their attention for more than a few seconds. Therefore, people who overly depend on technology sometimes struggle to maintain eye contact.


When in an in-person conversation, be mindful about how often you’re making eye contact. Too little eye contact can hinder the connection and make it appear as though you are uninterested or distracted. However, too much eye contact can be intimidating. Work to find a proper balance to show that you are engaged and wish to be connected with this person.

Identifying Emotions

Body language and tone of voice are the factors that convey emotions to others. This is why text messages can often be so confusing. If someone says “I’m fine,” but they aren’t, you aren’t likely to pick up their true tone through text. However, seeing them in person will make it clear if that person is actually okay or not.


This dissociation with emotions can affect how well people pick up emotions when they have in-person conversations. A study by UCLA found that kids who spent a significant time online had more difficulty reading others’ emotions than those who didn’t. Since they aren’t given cues through text or social media about their peers’ emotions (except perhaps through emojis), many people lose the ability to read those nonverbal cues when in the same room with other people.


When conversing with someone, pay attention to their tone of voice, posture, and eyes. Do they depict that this person is happy? People often say the opposite of what they feel, sometimes hoping that the other person will pick up on the truth through nonverbal cues. Reading these cues is key to discovering their true emotional state.


Final Thoughts

Though technology has made it easier to connect to people, it has filtered out the vital body language and nonverbal cues necessary to make conversations engaging. This has real-world consequences, as more people struggle to decode body language when conversing in real life.


However, understanding this phenomenon and using mindfulness when engaged in the conversation can help. Though social media forces us to take someone’s words at face value, we cannot afford to do this in real-life conversation. Understanding body language is the key to deep connections and more meaningful conversations, so take time to work on your body language decoding skills to deepen your connections and improve your relationships. If you continue to struggle with body language, sometimes it helps to read articles and stories that can help you gain some insight into how body language affects others. BetterHelp has some wonderful articles that dive into body language.