Tag Archives: Political

Mo’ne Davis, Trolls, & The Online Dis-Inhibition Effect

Trolls. These are the posters on social media, blogs and elsewhere online, who feel free to express their most vile, insulting, obscene, and/or hurtful thoughts. It just happened to teenage baseball wiz Mo’ne Davis. (Do a search for the story.) Some idiot from a college called her a slut. Inappropriate to say the least. He didn’t know her. So what caused him to think anyone would be interested in this type of opinion?

It’s known as the online dis-inhibition effect and it has resulted from our continuing preference for communicating in writing, particularly when the poster can remain anonymous (though not in this case). There is a significantly lower level of inhibition vs. communicating face-to-face (or even voice-to-voice). Online, people don’t watch what they say. In this case, the poster was expelled from his university. But often, there are no consequences. We’re all victimized by this type of thing from time to time. But are we the victimizers, too?

When we are communicating via written means (text, email, etc.), we are more likely to express ourselves inappropriately. We more easily say things while sitting alone at the keyboard that we would never say face-to-face. We are less restrained and controlled. These are the types of communications we might even decide to let go, leave unmentioned or, at the very least, state more diplomatically.

I first noticed and started to write about this phenomenon several years ago with my kids, who seemed able to be very frank with friends and others when text messaging. At first, I admired that they could and would say what they really felt. I thought it was refreshing. As a regular cheerleader for directness in communication, I could not imagine how this could be a bad thing — until one of them broke up with a boyfriend via text message. That was my wake-up call. For the important stuff, face-to-face has tremendous advantages. (I’m not saying that two 16-year-olds breaking up is that important; it is, however, practice for dealing with future conflicts.)

When we communicate facing another person, a cascade of nonverbal signals that can be very subtle constantly cues us. The flick of an eyebrow, the twitch of a mouth are only two among many other signs we read and consider. They occur in fractions of seconds and we are barely conscious of them, but we do read and consider them and they influence our responses. Our empathy centers are activated and we work to ensure the communication stays on track, even goes well.

And empathy is key. In my speeches and writings, I identify it as one of three critical communication skills (the other two are apology and courtesy. When we are alone, typing, there is an absence of information that we instinctively respond to when we are in another’s presence. We hit send before we think better of it. This creates problems. I see it with my clients all the time and I experience it myself both in email exchanges and in rude and gratuitous comments to my blogs and on social media. It is a major component of cyber-bullying of young people.

It is just too easy to hit that send button. I know we live in a frenetic, sometimes frantic world, but it’s important to take a step back. So follow this rule: if you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it in writing.

By the way, Mo’ne Davis asked that the offender be reinstated.

Meryl Streep Really Annoyed Me

I never thought I’d say this, but Meryl Streep really annoyed me. She was so irritating, I had to turn off a movie I was watching that she was starring in. This never happened before. I love Meryl Streep, think she’s one of the all-time great actors. She’s so great at dialects and accents and using her voice to embody her characters. Truly a rare talent. You don’t see a lot of even famous actors with this level of skill. And she may actually be too good at it, because that’s what bugged me — her character’s voice.

This movie I had to escape was “Hope Springs.” It’s about a couple, probably close to 60, who’ve been married for a long time and have gotten bored with each other, the spark has gone out. Tommy Lee Jones played the husband. Streep’s character, the wife, tries to get the excitement back in the marriage.

Traditional housewife, of that generation.

And her voice was so small. She never raised it, even when she was angry or hurt.
Can I tell you this type of voice is common even today and I see it in women who are young, and accomplished.

Great example is when I go to events and people stand up and ask questions. And they speak as if they are in a one-on-one conversation in a private setting instead of a room filled with hundreds of people. Their voice is hushed and high-pitched. They don’t realize how they come across. Weak, dependent, not accomplished. They don’t realize they’re being vetted by everyone in that room. People are making decisions about them and basing those decisions on the way they sound.

When you are in public, especially a professional environment, you have to remember that everything you do, including the way you speak, marks you. You can choose to be marked as powerful, confident, and authoritative. Or, you can choose to be marked as weak and whiney.

What We Can All Learn From Brian Williams

Brian Williams failed, but not for the reasons you may think. It all had to to with the core argument he made about himself throughout his career and how his particular gaffe undermined it. It’s why the bad news is likely to stick.