Don’t believe everything you hear about the Internet

Truth or lies onlineDid you know that only 7% of human communication is verbal? The rest is all non-verbal. I know it must be true, I have been told it hundreds of times. Except of course, it is completed and total hogwash, tosh, nonsense. Besides if it were true, how come you have managed to get my point and this is all verbal stuff, text-based, devoid of any body language?

The notion that human communication is mostly non-verbal is used in presentation skills training courses, it is taught to students of advertising and it is announced in business meetings the world over. It is used so frequently that it has become established fact. Except it is not a fact. Indeed, even the researcher who came up with the 7% figure has attempted to put things right by pointing out that people should not misinterpret his findings; he clearly says that his research is only about feelings. Professor Mehrabian from UCLA says, “Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.” Psychologists have attempted to bust the myth, yet it persists as “established fact” that communication is only 7% verbal. It is not; get over it…!

There are also “established facts” about the Internet which are simply not true. For instance, all across the news channels yesterday and in various newspapers were stories about the “20th birthday of the Internet”. Strange, because the people who invented it claim it was created in 1989, some 24 years ago. Yet it is now “fact” that it is only 20. Indeed, I wrote about the 20th Birthday of the Internet on 13th March 2009, when it actually was 20 years old.

It is also, apparently, “fact” that if you let people use Facebook at work they’ll waste time chatting to friends instead of getting on with their job. Thousands of companies block access to Facebook based upon this “fact”, except that research shows the complete opposite. When companies switch off access to Facebook, productivity goes down. The web is not a work time waster and neither are social media activities. Yet thousands of bosses know a version of  “the truth” which is not established fact.

The difference between fact and fiction has been brought into stark reality following the analysis of neuroscience research by a psychologist from the University of Bristol. In the first analysis of its kind, the research shows that what neuroscientists have thought to be established fact may be nothing of the kind. Much of what we know about neuroscience may be false it seems. It is such an important analysis that the American Association for the Advancement of Science has published an analysis in its magazine, Science.

But what does all this tell us? It suggests that you should challenge all those “facts” you are told about the Internet. When people tell you that you “have to be” on the first page of Google, ask why and what happens if you are not. When people tell you that you “must” build a mailing list, ask why and what happens if you don’t. And when people tell you that the future of the web is mobile, ask “who says so” and “how do they know”. Challenge things. Collect your own data. Analyse your own information.

Just because someone says it is a “fact” does not mean it is. So that means you should even challenge this article….! I’m ready….!!

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