Internet Tone

No I am not talking about how the internet sounds, or that horrible dial up noise. In my last podcast I mentioned how some people have an internet persona, and well yesterday wired had an article about how easy it is to misinterpret tone in electronic communication. Read the full wired story.

“People often think the tone or emotion in their messages is obvious because they ‘hear’ the tone they intend in their head as they write,” …

…The reason for this is egocentrism, or the difficulty some people have detaching themselves from their own perspective, says Epley. In other words, people aren’t that good at imagining how a message might be understood from another person’s perspective.

Being a part of a couple of online communities has opened an unusual door to the world of missinterpreted messages. I have come to despise some communications online and more importantly “internet personas.”

I used to have a rule for years, if I did not know you IRL (In Real Life) I would not talk to you on the internet. People missrepresent themselves too often and don’t understand that while the internet provides some anonimity, you should still feel accountable for what you claim to be or what you say. Little by little I stopped being so closed minded about it and I actually allowed myself to establish a couple of online friendships. For the most part I like to meet the people IRL before I call them friends, but people like April, Bea, Marchal, Berry, Michael, Pol, Evil_Ataril and others I call friends just through online interaction. While I think meeting them in real life is still the ultimate test, I still find myself capable of calling them friends. I also call friends some of the online buddies that I had the chance to meet in real life like TheGuru and MikeP.
All the people I mentioned there are part of the blogsphere, and while in a way it could be considered a huge internet message board, it is not. Internet message boards have been a difficult thing for me to deal with because of how different people tend to be when you meet them IRL. Maybe it is partly because the boards that I am a member of (gaming and motorcycle) are full of testosterone and who has the fastest machine (both motorcycle displacement and processing power.) All of the places that I visit I have the opportunity to eventually meet the people IRL. With CLSB I ended up making some friends that I will keep for the rest of my life, same with the Michigan gaming community. However, I have also had encounters with people that wear a mask online and then IRL they are either the complete opposite or a toned down version of who they are online. I cannot understand why.

I know we all have some level of self image that is different than what others might percieve of us. Some of the internet personas though are so extreme that they are unpleasant to the point that I would not want to associate with that person at all. Racism has been a big issue for me. Some people feel that on the internet they can state their beliefs in a very open way, calling people names, singling out a whole race with a single statement… but then IRL those people don’t back up those words, they cannot look at you in the eye and say those same things.

Other people have been simply very confrontational, very in your face. I thought a couple of them would be people that would actually come up to me and try to hurt me physically, but then you meet them IRL and it is laughable how just being behind a keyboard made them grow virtual muscles that deflate rapidly as you stare at them face to face. The most annoying instance to me is when I have had internet encounters with people that I have grown to really dislike, but then people that have met the person IRL say, that guy is one of the nicest people you would ever meet. My question is, then why does he play a low life ingnorant bully wannabe in the internet?

I admit that everything that is inside of this blog is only a portion of who I really am, it is a little window to my world but not a complete view. Not just because it is written and it is at times hard to transmist tone over the net, but because you have to be around me to really experience how weird, geeky, cool and overall different I can be. However, everything that you see online from me is something that you can see in real life too. There is no mask that I wear or persona that I portray, what you read is what you will hear come out of my mouth too… only it will have a Colombian accent.

10 Responses to Internet Tone

  1. It’s easy to feel invulnerable when you don’t have to stare your audience in the face. I think that’s why some truly nice people can come across as pompous asses online.

  2. You bring up a great point about how people are often more verbal online than they would ever be in person. Or, how even on my own blog sometimes people completely miss the point of my post, as evidenced by their comments. However, for what it’s worth, all of the bloggers that I have met in-person have been pretty honest and down to earth. While there is no way to completely understand who they are online, I’ve not been disappointed yet. Most are actually more open and honest in person, as I think we all exercise some degree of censorship on our pages, esp. when real-life friends and family read our blogs.

  3. I don’t think I have ever had a problem looking you in the eyes and being just as much of an arse in real life as I am online. Granted, I also know you. And in a way, that also worked to our advantage as well. Because, as we know, I am also racist and there is no reason I should give a darn about you. But you are my friend nonetheless. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  4. The original paper says the chance of picking correctly the intent of irony vs sincerity was no better then random chance. Choosing between irony vs sincerity is one of the toughest problems in plain text. One thing that makes it tough is that by convention we typically use “quotes” to show something is ironic. Yet this conflicts with using quotes for quotes, quotes for emphasis, and quotes for calling attention to a phrase — all common uses of quotes in text. No wonder we can’t interpret irony accurately.

    There are also a number of other psychological and sociological causes for the cycle of flames, including over-interpretation of emotional content, emotional contagion, and lowered empathy during higher intensity emotions. I’ve written more about these in my blog at Flames: Emotional Amplification of Text.

  5. I am proud to be called a friend, sir. It’s an honor and I consider you to be a freind as well.

    Someday we shall meet and party like it’s 1999…

    Oh wait….

    That said, I do find it’s hard to convey tone on-line. I think that’s why you should read more than one entry in a blog to get a feel for who the person is as it were. But that’s just me.

  6. Very interesting point Logtar. The fact that some bloggers share some day-to-day life experiences through this medium that is the web, that’s how I begin to establish a more personal connection with those people because even though I might not know them personally, I begin to take interest.

    I guess I’m more fascinated in how we can all maintain connected regardless of our geographical location. I would be neat to meet fellow bloggers in person though. Some often create Blogger Meets.

  7. Well, the truth is, is that all of the bloggers whom I read, I would love to meet IRL. I don’t read blogs that I wouldn’t want to meet IRL, because I honestly don’t have too many friends here in Houston, because I’m usually too busy, and the internet is my favorite way to make friends. Shoot, I mean, I met my husband online, and so, what does that say about me? Some would say I was crazy, but others see how kewl it is. I have only met one person from online, but it was awesome. I have been online since about 1998, and like you, I acknowledge that there is an internet persona and a real personality one has. If you met me in person, you would find, that I am almost exactly who I am on my blog, except in person, I am more personal.

  8. Hi Logtar,
    a few random thoughts:
    thanks for calling me a friend for I feel the same to you – just from what I know about you from your blog.
    As for internet personas vs RealLife I think this is both a bug and a feature of online communication. I always liked this cartoon – online communication allows you to act in a way your real life persona might usually prevent allowing you to get into contact with people who would not look at you twice IRL. Of course the bug-factor is there quite strongly, as well, as you describe it.
    On the other hand I think it is not possible to have completely contradictory personality traits IRL and online respectively – a little bit of truth remains in both personas and perhaps the “real reality” lies somewhere in between with everybody.
    As for me IRL: I fear I belong to the toned down versions, being much shyer IRL than I am online, much more withdrawn, much less eloquent and a lot fatter I fear. And of course online I present only a small portion of my geekishness. Hmmm…should work at it.
    Kind regards Marchal

  9. Oh – the cartoon link did not work. I am sure you know the cartoon already, it is quite popular, anyway here is the URL: http://www.unc.edu/depts/jomc/academics/dri/idog.jpg

  10. although i understand what you are expressing i still think that some people can’t help it but hide behind the machine. it’s the way it is. not everyone is stable and confident in the crowd. it’s the way it blows sometimes.

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