Does Medium Affect Behavior?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people behave in different environments. It first crossed my mind a month or so ago, while out shopping with one of my sisters. She was driving, someone cut her off, and she commented on the person’s rude behavior. I said that I wondered if the person would act the same in person.

I act quite differently in my car than I do when I meet strangers in a store. I’m much more likely to be aggressive while driving, whereas in a store, I’m generally very courteous and tend to go out of my way to hold doors open for people, and that sort of thing.

It’s strange, really. I’m “in a rush” when I’m on the road and don’t have time for niceties, but after parking my car and walking into a store five minutes later, I can take the time to be polite. It made me wonder if medium influences behavior.

I was talking recently with another entrepreneur about how people can be rude and even intentionally hurtful when posting comments online. We wondered if those same people would act differently in person. We agreed that the Internet has a tendency to evoke rudeness where it otherwise wouldn’t exist. For example, I came across a Twitter reply a few days ago that, while not necessarily overtly rude, seemed snippy and maybe a little arrogant. It gave me a bad first impression of the company and its team, something that is now hard for them to repair.

All of these instances made me realize how important it is to be polite and courteous in every environment. A simple tweet or blog comment might very well damage a reputation that you’ve worked hard to establish, when all that was really needed was a little consideration for another person.

How observant are you about how you behave in different environments? If you knew your customers could see you, would you act the same?

Image from Flickr by Jacob Bøtter