It seems that we’re more and more connected to each other online these days with online relationships starting to become even more important than face-to-face relationships.
Some new research supports this by saying that young Generation X adults are as likely to connect online with friends, family and co-workers as they are in person.
The researchers suggest that this is the beginning of a new paradigm where online communications will be the dominant way that we interact and relate to others.
I think this is no surprise to anybody when you see how attached we are to our mobile devices and our need to be connected to others 24/7.
So based on my own observations of how people communicate online, here are 7 mistakes you want to make sure you’re not making.
1. Disclosing too much information (aka TMI)
We’ve all had the experience of gasping with shock at what someone we know has shared online.
I recently had a Facebook connection who shared intimate post-surgery photos of his operation. The photos were shocking and totally inappropriate for public consumption.
This phenomenon is a common one that has been well documented with people also sharing too much information in the workplace, leading to lost jobs and reprimands.
The danger with sharing too much information is it can be captured and released into the public domain. Anyone can take a screenshot of their computer, smartphone or tablet screen and send it to others and the cost can be long-lasting.
2. Attack, dump and run
This style of online communication is also a common one due the anonymity factor when engaging online.
Much research has shown that people will behave in ways online that they never would offline, due to the perceived safety and anonymity that the online world provides.
Generally, people that attack others, dump criticisms on people or organisations and then disappear are called ‘trolls’. Trolls are considered to be people that are out to cause as much damage and ruckus as they can online.
If you have the impulse to attack someone online, consider what the consequences might be for you personally and professionally if your attack or dump was revealed to your wider networks of friends, family and work colleagues.
While you may feel a sense of safety in the anonymity of the internet, the reality is that this is a false safety and aggressive online communication can come back to bite you later on.
3. Communicating too frequently
Some people are so attached to their mobile devices and computers that they feel anxiety when they can’t connect with their networks after a short amount of time.
This kind of compulsive need to communicate can show up as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder- where you’re checking Facebook, Twitter and email every few minutes.
The consequence of feeling in a conscious state of alertness, anxiety and arousal is it can add to your overall stress levels.
Make sure you have technology-free evenings and days throughout the week to avoid developing habits that don’t serve you in the long run.
4. Too much reacting and not enough reflecting
Due to the instantaneous nature of the Internet, it’s far too easy for people to become reactive in their communication online and not take time to reflect.
I’ve seen many instances where someone will ‘shoot from the hip’ online only to inflame a relationship, or bring a relationship to a sudden end.
If the person had taken time too pause, breathe and reflect, it’s likely that the relationship wouldn’t have been damaged.
It’s always harder to repair a relationship where someone feels injured than to approach them offline and talk through the issue.
5. Inappropriate sharing for your audience
Along the lines of TMI, I’ve seen communication online that is totally inappropriate for the people that are based on that network.
If you have a Facebook profile that is viewable by family members, there are certain topics and language that you may want to not use in light of who may be reading your posts.
Similarly, if you have work colleagues or a boss who follows you on Twitter, you may want to think twice before bragging about that hangover, the long Friday lunch or the sickie you’re taking.
It might sound obvious, but many people communicate online without any consideration for who may be reading their information.
6. Crossing boundaries
A common complaint I hear from clients is someone crossing a boundary with their online communication.
This might show up with a family member disclosing personal details about another family member without their permission.
I’ve heard of families having huge fallouts because of a sibling
shared some tragic family news to her Facebook friends without seeking the permission of the people it involved.
It’s also becoming more commonplace that people are sharing major life events like birth and deaths online. But before you share that information, you need to consider do you have the authority or permission to be communicating that news?
The question to ask yourself is ‘is this my business or someone else’s business?’. If it’s the latter, you may end up in a difficult situation when others discover you sharing their personal news.
7. Sharing photos and locations without permission
This one’s a little more tricky, but is also become an emerging issue for many people.
A huge amount of information that is shared online now includes photos and locations. People love to share photos with their friends and don’t think twice before doing this.
However, many relationship problems have come about due to this very issue.
A husband shares a less-than-flattering photo of his wife to his Facebook friends. A work colleague tags someone to a location without their permission revealing where they are when they weren’t meant to be there. And then there are all the privacy concerns that can come from letting people know where and when you are in a particular location.
The possibilities are endless, however, it’s always best to check first with your friend or partner if they are ok with you revealing their location or posting a photo that includes them.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.