Multiple Personalities

Communication through bulletin boards, netmeetings, email and other internet mediums is becoming the norm. how often do you send a quick email rather than call a friend to see what the plans are for the weekend? or have a net meeting rather than an in-person meeting. Putting aside the significant cost advantages as well as distance and schedually bridges that internet communication provides, there are some interesting ideas on why people sometimes prefer communicating via the net rather than person to person.

There was a study done at the University of Alberta in 2000 titled: Exploring Social Communication in Computer Conferencing. In the study, there is discussion on the idea that some people, namely students, who feel uncomfortable participating in traditional classroom social interaction activities will show a completely different personality during internet communication. I have experienced it myself during various netmeetings, people who are normally shy and passive sometimes lead the online discussion, offer numerous opinions and question the remarks of other discussants.

What is it that causes this shift in personality? Is the computer screen less intimidating than human faces? or is it the forums themselves, which can be “manipulated to create open, supportive and cooperative environment[s]”, as the U of A study suggests? And why have classrooms gone from being open, supportive and cooperative environments to areas of intimidation, peer pressure and passive behaviour? are computers and the internet taking us away from the need to interact socially in person, or is the degradation of human behaviour (intimidation, peer pressure, impatience, power trips, etc) driving us to seek new mediums for communication?

There question that baffles me the most is: which personality is real? The personality that is shown when a person is in physical presence of other humans or the person’s online personality? It appalls me to think that there may come a day where our lives are so dependent on the internet that our personalties are defined completely by our online behaviour.

Does anyone have any thoughts? just think about it, I can already see personality differences, online and in the classroom, amongst our classmates.

2 Responses to “Multiple Personalities”

  1. Liam says:

    I’ve always found this to be interesting as well. The way people can and do present themselves online often contrasts with how they present themselves in real life.

    There are really a lot of differences with how well we can perceive people from postings and e-mail compared to the real world. I think one of the major differences is that it’s possible online to not only go over what you’ve said, but to control more finely what is presented to the world. It’s reminiscent of the article about losing the smell of vinegar, you can get some clues about the person from what they’ve written, but it’s not necessarily as informative as seeing and talking to the person in real life.

    The striking thing about online communication is the record. I noticed when I look over my e-mails and postings on boards and the like, my tone and writing style changes immensely depending on the audience or context. I thought this was bizarre for awhile before I realized that I do the same thing in real life; I just don’t have the ability to watch exactly what I’m doing later. Body language, speech patterns, the whole lot of it depends hugely (for me at least) on the situation, I’m just not as aware of it as I am say with things for which I have a written record.

    As far as online communities being more open and supportive, again I think it depends hugely on the context. In the worst case I think forums sometimes showcase pretty much the bottom of the barrel in terms of decency. Sometimes the computer screen might be less intimidating, but that also allows people to try to get away with things they’d never be able to in real life.

  2. Hannah says:

    You’ve brought up an interesting point. Why are there personality differences between face-to-face communication and online communication? Personally I find it easier to write something rather than to say something face-to-face, because you can stop and actually think about what it is you want to say. I also find that whenever I speak with someone, the entire conversation I had with them usually repeats in my mind over and over until my brain hurts. Another woman who I worked with over the summer, also mentioned that this happens to her, and that apparently it’s common in introverted people. I don’t know. On the other hand, my personality changes as I get to know someone, and become more extroverted. But I’m wary about what will happen to future generations, as computers become a prominant device in the classroom. Is there a way to find some sort of balance? When we use computers to chat online, we miss the opportunity to socialize with the person sitting a few seats away, and instead, we take that opportunity for granted. And as we continue to put our value into computers, we forget the human element. My friend never had a t.v. growing up, although he did have a computer, and occassionally played computer games. But he told me that when he was sick he just ended up reading books. I wish I had read more books as a child, rather than watching t.v. He’s a really really bright student, and gets really good grades and is very sociable. I know computers can be used as an educational tool, but we tend to forget that there’s a catch. They take away some basic social skills, such as sharing and helping each other out, values that I think are intrinsic for a good society to function. Otherwise we grow up and become lonely, detached and unhappy. Especially at the younger ages, where kids are still learning the basic social skills, there should be more social interaction, I think, and less computer distraction. There is something else that may be interesting to note. What happens when computer interaction with images of the person becomes more popular? This will be similar to talking face-to-face. Just recently one of my relatives had an on-line baby shower. So computers may also help bring people together.