If you are thinking ‘what on earth is Cybernese?’ you may be surprised to discover that it is a rapidly evolving language that we all need to become fluent in – fast. Because Cybernese is the non-verbal, online language we have all begun to adopt since the mass exodus from the office to remote and hybrid work.
In the physical world, the idea that body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can communicate as much as the actual words coming out of your mouth is a familiar one. So, being able to ‘read’ people is an important skill which can give us valuable insights into what they actually think and feel about something (or someone).
With more and more interaction happening online, we are now having to interpret a whole new set of non-verbal signals – Cybernese.
For example, services like Zoom and Teams have become an integral part to working from home. And whilst now it is more difficult to decipher body language from just a person’s head and shoulders, there are other aspects of non-verbal Zoom etiquette which convey a whole new set of different meanings – intentional or otherwise.
Do you attend meetings with your camera off? A recent study found that 92% of US executives believed that employees who had their cameras off probably did not have a long-term future at their organization.
And what about the background you use when on a video call? What does it imply about you and the kind of worker you are?
It is no surprise that those who are already somewhat fluent in ‘Cybernese’ are Gen Z workers – they are digital-natives with an almost intuitive understanding of the internet and social media. Research shows that 98% of Gen Z own a smartphone, and almost all of them use social media in some form. For younger workers, myself included, understanding all the non-verbal nuances in the digital world is something that we just know how to do – partly because we were the ones who invented them!
Take the emoji for instance. Originally conceived as icons to help add expressions to your text messages, many emojis now hold hidden meanings that are much less obvious to those who have not grown up using them. If your manager is sending you an eggplant emoji to tell you they are having a veggie parmigiana for dinner, this may not quite come across as intended…
Pre-pandemic, ‘Cybernese’ existed primarily as a means for young people to communicate amongst themselves without the older generation understanding what was being said. This is not a new idea; in the Victorian era flowers were used to send silent messages, with different flowers holding different meanings. Similarly, in 1970s New York, many gay men would use a handkerchief code to signal to each other. So, having a hidden, non-verbal language is not a new phenomenon – but what is new is the sudden need for this language to be understood by almost everyone in order to avoid any potential mishaps.
‘Cybernese’ could open a potential communication gap between staff – especially those from different generations – and so introducing a new set of training for digital non-verbal cues would be a great way to ensure that employers and employees alike know exactly how to market themselves. And with Gen Z steadily flowing into the workforce, as well as remote and hybrid working becoming more and more popular, now is the perfect time to seize this opportunity.
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020