We’ve come a long way from the days when the idea of online dating raised skeptical eyebrows. But have we gotten any better at expressing ourselves online? Does your real personality shine through when you chat with others?
Although exact numbers are anyone’s guess, most people agree that effective communication has a large nonverbal component. We rely on cues such as body language or tone of voice to express ourselves and understand others in real life. And while video calls are becoming a regular feature of life amid the pandemic, a lot of our online interactions still take place through limited channels of communication. Here’s how you can improve on this aspect and make it work for your relationships.
Be aware of disinhibition
In face-to-face interactions, people often have to deal with personal inhibitions. We might not always be able to say what’s on our minds, perhaps out of shyness, fear, or aversion to conflict. People can take steps to overcome these challenges. Speech coaches can help you to avoid stuttering. A visit to an orthodontic retainer lab can improve your smile as an adult and impart greater confidence and charm.
The mere act of shifting your communication online creates the reverse effect of disinhibition. When you chat or email, the other person doesn’t see you. Communication can be asynchronous, as opposed to the real-time, back-and-forth that takes place when you converse in person. And in many situations, you could be communicating with someone who doesn’t know your true identity.
These factors can lead to online interactions playing out in a very different way than they would in a face-to-face scenario. Kids can address adults as equals when they are anonymous. We can divide our attention and multitask or simply ignore the conversation until we’re ready, when doing so in real life would be considered rude.
Disinhibition can exert a negative influence on your online communications. If you’re not aware of this danger, you can end up expressing yourself very differently. Your online persona might not match your personality in real life. People who already know you in person might be surprised at this dissonance. New acquaintances you make online can be disappointed when they get to know the real you. If your goal is to have healthy relationships, you need to make sure that you continue to communicate online in a way that’s true to yourself.
Mind the net lingo
English may be the common language of the internet, but it has definitely become specialized for online use. We scarcely blink when encountering slang, shorthand, or acronyms online. “Lol w8 brb” would’ve been absolute gibberish in the past, but it’s entirely understandable for a lot of online users.
The everyday use of so-called ‘net lingo’ has even qualified some terms to enter the lexicon; ‘facepalm,’ ‘NSFW,’ and ‘TL;DR’ have all been accepted by Merriam-Webster in recent years. Emojis are yet another facet of online communication that can make it different from conversational English.
We don’t get to practice using emojis or net lingo in face-to-face conversations. So there’s a risk of missing context when the communication takes place online, especially between individuals who don’t know each other too well. Most people will instantly grasp the meaning behind various degrees of ‘happy’ or ‘amused’ emoji; there isn’t much nuance separating ‘face with tears of joy’ from ‘rolling on the floor laughing.’ But the ‘flirty’ faces can be more ambiguous. You probably don’t want miscommunications to arise from using ‘winking face,’ ‘smirking face,’ or ‘face with tongue.’
Practice your writing
The influence of the internet has played a major role in creating a culture of instant gratification. Once we had emerged from the dark ages of dial-up connections, searching for anything in Google could yield relevant results in seconds. Today, social media users can upload and post pictures on the go, and receive the status boost associated when someone hits the like button.
Within this setting, it’s easy to forget that good writing can easily improve our online communications. We can offset the limitations of chats and emails by making the extra effort to express ourselves properly in writing. Take some time to compose your thoughts and avoid knee-jerk reactions. You’ll be glad that you don’t say anything you might have regretted later. Edit yourself, be concise, and pay attention to structure; that way, nobody will be replying with a TL;DR. And remember to write as you would speak in real life. That practice alone can mitigate the risks of disinhibition and help you come across as more authentic and expressive.