November 16, 2010

Is social media IQ impacting our overall EQ?

Posted in social media tagged at 4:02 pm by Jennifer

Social media has exploded like a giant cyberspace mushroom cloud, and there are arguments on both sides for the impact it has had on human interaction. Have we become more social because of these new tools? Or are we now “antisocial” hiding behind a veil of connections that exist only online?

I think we can all agree that social media has enabled us to meet more people than we might have otherwise, that it allows us to keep in touch with previous contacts and that it’s made information sharing with a mass audience much easier. But because online dialogue is different than face to face contact it has the potential to influence how we interact with each other in a negative way if not done properly. Basic communications tools, like emotional intelligence (EQ), should really be applied to online communication as well.

The three overall “pillars of EQ” from my basic understanding are;

  1. Am I able to read people well
  2. Do I understand my own emotions
  3. Do I manage the emotions of others effectively

The instantaneous nature of online communication often means we risk sending something out when angry, excited or emotionally charged that we regret later on. (Similar to saying the same things out loud, except that it leaves an online paper trail.) The other issue is that we often take for granted the people we communicate with or their emotions, especially if you have a large online audience. “Followers” stop being people and become just a homogenous part of your measurable audience.

So how can we apply emotional intelligence to the larger world of social media?

  • Always keep in mind that there are people on the other end of your messages. They may have different reasons for reading what you’re communicating, but they’re all interested in what you have to say.
  • If you happen to have a large online audience, it’s a reflection of the impression you’ve made and the interest you’ve generated online. It can be a reason to be really proud that there exists a significant pool of people who want to be in touch with you and read what you have to say. BUT – no one should place all of the emphasis on the number of relationships/ followers/ audience they have over the quality of those relationships. You risk making people feel ignored and that they aren’t “worthy of your time”, not a great impression to make.
  • Think first type second – a good rule of thumb when we’re angry is to take a deep breath, think about it first and then say what we have to say to another person. This (hopefully) stops you from saying something you might later regret. There is no reason the same rule shouldn’t apply to online interactions.
  • The internet allowed people to gain a level of anonymity online, and so trolling was born. Hiding behind a computer screen and a fake name some people feel free to say cruel, hurtful or untrue things on message boards, blogs, forums etc. Personally I never use an anonymous name when posting online or providing feedback. At the end of the day nothing I or anyone else says is ever going to change these people, but if you are the target of “a troll” my advice is to ignore it unless there is some validity to their statement or an actual need to respond. By getting into an online “war or words” you’re just giving them what they want – attention. If their complaint was valid or you could actually find a resolution with them, then they would probably not be hiding behind an anonymous name.

If you have a personal experience or any thoughts on this, feel free to raise your hand and share it with the class. Also a shout-out to Movember for their great meetup yesterday in Toronto that inspired this post topic.



  1. Rick said,

    One of the Internet’s golden rules – NEVER FEED THE TROLLS!

    Nice post Jenn. Social Media brings all kinds of new variables into social interaction and how we should, and do, behave.

    What happens when you’re at a social gathering and you’re approached by someone you don’t know, but who knows your online persona very well?

    What do you do when you’re the one approaching, and you don’t know the other person at all, but they know you? They have a pre-first impression.

    And this has always happened, but that was by talking to mutual friends, business connections, etc. Not by typing a name into a search box.

    • Thats right, keep those trolls in a perpetual state of hunger!

      And you raise really good points (scenarios?), things that most of us never had to think of years ago. I actually like meeting people from online in real life, it gives some validity to the connection and I get to experience their personality firsthand.

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  3. Luke Grange said,

    Great post Jenn and a topic which is really close to my set of interests. I did a year long research study into bringing the concepts of levels of Emotional Intelligence and effective communication through Social Media together. Here is a link to our final paper which I thought you might find interesting:

    • Thanks for sharing Luke, I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in the technology we neglect the human element. Looking forward to reading what you guys put together, I’ve been thinking in broad terms so actual research will be interesting to look at.

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