The Center for Internet Behavior has found that email-writing habits — use of emoticons, fonts, color etc. — reveal more about people than they may realize.
Quick – check your outbox! Are your emails salted with smiley faces? Do you use a lot of netspeak shorthand? David Greenfield, Ph.D., director of The Center for Internet Behavior, believes that these email habits reveal a great deal about personality (okay, maybe not in the depth of a Myers Briggs MBTI, but maybe more fun).
“Because we see email as more anonymous than in-person or phone interactions,” says Dr Greenfield, “we’re less inhibited, often showing sides of ourselves we may not even be aware of.”
Dr. Greenfield has spent over a decade studying Internet behavior, especially email and Internet addiction. Relying on emails and instant messaging in preference to face-to-face conversation may be a sign of such addiction as well as of social withdrawal and depression, according to the Center’s web site.
One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. “E-mail cannot reveal context and facial cues, which can and do add to the richness of communication,” wrote Dr. Greenfield in Digital Dating: The Malt Shop of the Millennium (published on his web site).
To overcome the missing “richness”, to compensate for the lack of facial expression and body language, email users substitute other cues in their emails. Barbara Hustedt Crook had a feature in Woman’s World (September 22, 2008), based on Dr. Greenfield’s work. In that article, Crook outlines a few of these “non-verbal cues”.
According to lead researcher Mitja Back, a study done at the University of Leipzig in Germany revealed that “even the thinnest slice of computer mediated communication — the mere e-mail address — contains valid information about the personality of its owner.” Back and her colleagues asked a panel of 100 students to guess the personalities of 599 young adults from their email addresses.
The panel’s guesses agreed fairly with a personality survey the teenagers had completed and showed “some degree of validity”, according to the study.
Although it’s not the best career aptitude test, it’s still fun. Email gurus can enjoy using this information as a kind of online personality quiz, analyzing either their own outgoing emails or analyzing the contents of their in-boxes.
*These email addresses are totally imaginary, and any resemblance to the email addresses of real people is totally coincidental.