Are You More Outgoing in Social Media?

Filed as Features on December 17, 2008 9:14 am

Like most geeks, in person I am shy. You likely know someone close to you who is exactly the same. I am fortunate that I have loud friends who can make introductions for me! Most people who “meet” me online though wouldn’t know how quiet I am in social situations. Does social media make you more outgoing?

If you think about it a lot of the social barriers are not there in social media. You do not have to use your own name or face, and if you make a mistake in some cases you can just delete your account. I obviously use my own name and face, and live with the goofs I make, but the barrier to socializing online is still way lower than in face to face world.

I’m not including blogging here, although maybe I should, because I equate that to giving a talk or speech – it’s not a social interaction, more a prepared statement? It’s the interaction that I think happens more online than off.

It’s not just quantity but content also. Look on twitter and in facebook and people seem to have far fewer inhibitions. They will talk about all sorts of really personal topics.

Ordinarily it would take large quantities of alcohol to achieve the same effect.

What do you think? Is social media going to be the main way geeks and nerds socialize?

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  1. By Jill Whalen posted on December 17, 2008 at 9:22 am
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    Yep. We see this over and over again. It’s almost as if you have to be an introvert in “real life” to be good at social media! I’m sure there are exceptions, but there definitely seems to be a preponderance of social misfits in the space.

    It’s especially funny at conferences when everyone runs to their own little corner to chat with each other on twitter instead of face-to-face!

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  2. By Tracee Sioux posted on December 17, 2008 at 9:23 am
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    No, I’m pretty outgoing in person too. Joining Toastmasters is something shy people can do to get over it. It’s immersion therapy. Meet once a week and practice interacting publicly and give speeches. Pretty soon – no more shy.

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  3. By Marc posted on December 17, 2008 at 9:24 am
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    I absolutely couldn’t agree more with you Chris. In fact you could change your name to Marc and my family would still think it’s me :D

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  4. By Samar posted on December 17, 2008 at 9:28 am
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    Surprisingly, I’m more shy online than off. It’s easier for me to start a conversation and relate to a person I meet face to face. All it takes is a smile to get the conversation flowing.

    Online – I find myself thinking what to say, if it would add value? Would it stand out? Takes me a while to find the balance to be myself.

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  5. By Maurene Caplan Grey posted on December 17, 2008 at 9:47 am
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    I’m a geek at heart and was IMing before it was in vogue with regular folk, that is outside of the geekdom. However, I don’t IM, tweet, SMS, etc. because I’m an introvert. Quite the opposite, I’m an extrovert and love to jump into a conversation with a bunch of strangers. Back to my geekdom affiliation, I like to technically understand how things work. Because I’m an extrovert, I like to find new ways of communicating–but within a framework.

    Your points, Chris, are quite true. Outside of geekdom though, as social media continues to mainstream, I believe it will augment–not replace–F2F. Think email “back in the day.”

    BTW… what a hoot. One of the Google ads in the right side bar is for “Social Anxiety Treatment.”

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  6. By Furie posted on December 17, 2008 at 1:34 pm
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    I’m a bit more reserved online than I am offline. I believe that people are social chameleons and that being part of any community (including an online one) makes people start acting more like the other people they’re around until a happy medium can be found for the group.

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  7. By Phil Glockner posted on December 17, 2008 at 1:37 pm
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    Great article, Chris. I definitely agree with your thoughts here, as evinced by a similar article I wrote on Louis Grey’s blog here:

    http://www.louisgray.com/live/2008/12/social-media-and-your-friends-oil-and.html

    I honestly don’t feel that ‘drunk’ when I am online, however, there is something that lowers the barrier for me.. I’m not sure if that is the lack of having to ‘read’ people’s expressions or the textual nature of the interaction.

    Perhaps the key is that a lot of ‘gut level’ responses never kick in online, since so many of the 5 primary senses are cut off.. often you have no idea who someone looks, gesticulates, smells, etc. when you read what they have written online. And those often minor signs can add up to give you a very different gestalt impression of someone in real life.

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  8. By Ed Kohler posted on December 17, 2008 at 3:38 pm
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    The investment of time involved in social interactions goes down online. I can snoop in on people and figure out if they’re interesting to me before interacting with them in a reciprocal fashion. That’s more efficient than investing time in talking to someone face to face only to find out that they bore the heck out of you.

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  9. By mike dibenedetto posted on December 17, 2008 at 4:12 pm
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    Great post, Chris. However, I actually feel the reverse. I feel pretty outgoing socially but in my social media interactions, I occasionally feel a bit more shy. I think it’s because whenever I approach someone, like you, it’s usually after having read their thoughts/blogs/tweets for a period of months. So I have this huge amount of respect for their thinking before I initiate contact. Whereas in real life, I often know nothing of someone that I approach so it’s not a big deal.

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  10. By Melissa Donovan posted on December 17, 2008 at 5:48 pm
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    Yes, yes, and yes. It’s far easier to be outgoing online than off. I’m not sure what it is but I think it has something to do with having time to collect your thoughts and communicate clearly. Plus, I always “speak” better in writing, so the web makes it easy for me.

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  11. By Ruby Mein posted on December 18, 2008 at 4:17 am
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    I am a noisy person when I am with my friends and my family. When I am online I am more serious because I interact with other people which I do not know. I am afraid I might say some things that will hurt them. But I am still outgoing in social media.

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  12. By dimitri posted on December 18, 2008 at 8:18 am
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    Yes, socializing on the internet is easy going but as the scients put it, if you do too much of it it is the sign that you have some issues.
    But anyway, as the future belongs to the internet i suppose that going online that often is not a big deal.

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  13. By Guillaume posted on December 18, 2008 at 3:52 pm
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    Well socializing on the internet is amazing for shy and non shy person as you have the possibility to find like minded person like never before. However to really make thta valubale you need to go to the offline world and to meet these persons for real.

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  14. By Adam from PageRush posted on December 18, 2008 at 5:10 pm
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    Oh yeah, definitely. Even if you are not anonymous, socializing online can be done whenever you feel like it, and you have time to consider what you say. This definitely makes it a safer place to be outgoing.

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  15. By Benjamin posted on December 21, 2008 at 6:10 am
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    Nice post Chris. I’ve done some quantitative surveys on social media users (based on fairly standard psychometrics) and it does seem that social media attracts an unusually large number of introverts.

    The normal social cues that might restrict us (ie make us shy) aren’t there in most social networking platforms, so people act in a more “outgoing” way. Therefore most people are quite different in how outgoing they are “on-line”.

    However, the real way to get over shyness is to get out and push through it – for example by joining an organisation like Toastmasters (as the first comment notes) where you have to stand up and talk in front of strangers.

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  16. By Jane "cash advance" Aidan posted on December 23, 2008 at 4:31 am
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    I love chatting a lot and I am on my pc most of the time and I guess I am more outgoing in social media… I like talking to people online and exchange ideas with them…

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