Saturday, December 23, 2006

Virtual and real stereotypes

Via the Internet Time Blog I found where you can play with your pictures. I decided to turn myself into a man (wasn't very hard) because some people who meet me online without seeing my picture, think I'm a man (the name Joitske is a strange name anyhow even in the Netherlands, could go for a man and woman). Somehow it feels like a compliment :).

Since I meet people online without knowing them face-to-face (or even without seeing their pictures) I am intrigued by how the experience changes when you do meet them. I had online exchanges without picture, where the picture is almost shockingly weird. Unconsciously, you do seem to create some sort of image (never really consciously). In some cases, I had online exchanges and when meeting the person, the person was different from my expectations. Either taking up more space (more dominant?) or on the contrary less space (softer?) than in my online experiences. Discovering that a person was from Jamaica with rasta hair seemed less distracting than finding out that her appearance was very gentle and easy-going (unlike the picture I had formed in my mind based upon the online communication).

Working online with pictures helps in my opinion, to form a completer idea of a person, but even when you are used to the pictures the face-to-face experience may be different. It takes some time to adjust to this 'new picture'. In one case, it was as simple as assuming that the person was very young since she was studying, whereas she was much older.

So it seems I have stereotypes at work in both cases. Sometimes it is argued that online communication is more straightforward because we are not distracted by physical clues, I wonder actually whether this is true. I think even online we do bring our own prejudices and do judge people from their communication, based on our previous experiences. A face-to-face experience may actually help to understand a person and his/her way of communicating better. What I do really appreciate online is that there is almost unlimited space. Face-to-face meeting are so time-limited that a lot of things people could say remain unspoken.

1 comment:

hoong said...

You wrote:

> What I do really appreciate online >>is that there is almost unlimited >>space. Face-to-face meeting are so >>time-limited that a lot of things >>people could say remain unspoken

Time is always limited since there are only 24 hours in a day. During a f2f meet, one does not have to limit the time. All depends on how one look at time. I generally dislike putting limit on time.

Some says IF we put limit on time (i.e 2 hours meeting, 10 minutes for this, and 15minutes for that), we are going to use our time more effeciently. BUT is it true? Consider this situation: If we have a meeting that 50% of the 20 participants need to bravel 1-1/2 hrs. each way to attend a meeting that last for 3 hours. Is it effective use of time? In my opinion it would be much more efficient to put in a WHOLE day programme and give more time for meaningful and detail discussions THEREFORE there is hardly any needs for MORE follow-up discussions. This is just one example.

Online communication is time limited too if one wants to. For example, I have LIMITED time to read all the blogs I want to read, and now have more than 300 blogs that I have check-marked on Bloglines to keep! And these are serious reading materials. And many of them I wanted to response (after quick glance but need to read more deeply before giving response) but because I do not have the time to read ...

Since we are now having the luxury of both online and off-line communication environments, perhaps the decision would be on what can be done online to have all the preliminary groud works done before f2f. To me, for business purposes (even personal), f2f is the final crunch to make things clear and glue. Therefore there should be ample of time to let that happen. Then follow-up with online communication, one more time, to tie-up a few final lose ends.

Online and offline communications require different skills and mindsets. They both takes up time. Just differently.