Take care when you comment online

Just realised you said the wrong thing? Don't worry - people already know..!Freud had a word for it, but for many people it is a difficult word – “Fehlleistungen”. Today we call it a “Freudian Slip” and it happens when we say one thing which reveals our “true desires” when we should say something else. For instance, we might want to say to an attractive individual “Can you tell me the way to the bread shop?” – when in fact we actually say “Can you tell me the way to your bed shop?”.  Desire gets in the way of intentions sometimes.

We all make these slips – parapraxes as they are called – and they seemingly reveal our inner intentions. That’s one theory, but other suggestions are they are merely coding errors in the formation of words as we speak. “Bread” and “bed” are very similar in formation – one tiny coding error is all we need to make the mistake. Or so some people think. Perhaps not; perhaps, after all, Freud was right all along.

New research shows that we often “give ourselves away” without actually meaning to. Psychologists from the University of Nebraska have found that when you say something about another person you are actually revealing a great deal of information about yourself too. For instance, when asked to rate people the information provided about the other person was actually closely connected to the personality traits of the rater themselves. Their comments on the individual they were supposedly rating were actually showing more about themselves.

Clearly, with the plethora or Web 2.0 opportunities, people must be giving out information about themselves all the time, without really intending to do so. They comment on a blog post, for instance, in a way that seemingly adds to the discussion, but actually could well be sending out signals about the commenter themselves instead. And that could well determine whether or not people actually like you. Another study shows that when we are nice online, we are usually nice in the real world too. When we are negative and nasty in online forums, guess what? Yes, deep down, inside we are pretty negative and nasty in the physical world.

So, if you give the game away that you are somewhat negative in any online comments the chances are people will not want to connect with you because instinctively they know you are just the same “for real”.

What does this all mean for your online activity? It means that if you want to succeed you are going to have to firstly be yourself in all your comments. Don’t be “business like” or try to use some kind of persona. If you do, you will give yourself away anyway, rather like an online Freudian Slip. And secondly, if you are a negative person, your online activity will clearly show this and people will quickly realise you are someone they don’t really want to connect with. It all suggests that positivity is essential to online Web 2.0 success.

These two studies therefore suggest that there are two things you need to do to make sure you succeed online:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Have a positive attitude

But come to think of it, that’s how successful people have always achieved their brilliance in the first place. Hey ho – in the online world, once again, we’re discovering that what we have always done for centuries offline is true still online.

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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
@markshaw Stats, ho hum. Average for me is 250 impressions out of 7500 followers. Except on Tweet last week managed… https://t.co/PSTClZ0782 - 11 hours ago
Graham Jones
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