What psychological/cognitive/sociological phenomenon describes this concept?

This is sort of a complicated description, but it seems increasingly relevant to me. Obviously, we see this all the time on this board. And I want to know if there’s a proper term for it.

The idea that words someone types on the internet, perhaps quite casually, creates to outsiders what appears to them to be a critical insight into the writer’s mind. The analysis of the words takes on a highly deconstructionist approach that attempts to profile the individual in question in a manner that reads too much into words that were either carelessly tossed out or which were written in a conversational manner that didn’t really imply a fully developed argument. The interpretation of these words comes to conclusions that while they may literally match with the words stated, usually denies the writer the benefit of any contextual meaning, complexity of thought, and expects complete resolution of all internal intellectual conflict or attitudes. Often such analyses come to the conclusion that the person in question-- who in real life is not even remotely controversial-- is prejudiced, a bigot, a racist, an ideologue, a moron, irresponsible, etc. Further, the idea that something that someone wrote online years ago without much thought now comes to (usually negatively) define him because of the ‘set in stone’ quality of writing, where the exact same thoughts stated out loud in a conversation would not create much controversy or elicit so much scrutiny.

My instinct is to say that this is some form of hyperreality, but when I look that up, it doesn’t quite seem to match. Any help?

Jumping to conclusions? Being too quick to judge? Fundamental attribution error?

That seems to get at part of it; but that seems too restricted somehow. It want it to encompass the idea that the few words that someone says online are used by outsiders to construct that person’s entire personality. This highly-limited simulcrum of that person that is considered by the person who made it to be an accurate representation of the real person behind it.

I don’t understand. Why would that be a separate phenomenon? Overassumptions caused by out-of-context speech seems to me a commonplace occurrence, whether it’s in speech, writing, or online. Giving it a new name just because it’s posted on a web forum instead of being a misquote in a newspaper article or some such seems, well, overly buzzword-y. What if we called it eFAE, for electronic fundamental attribution error?

it’s not unique to online forums; rather it’s particularly common here. But it’s not out-of-context speech so much as it is the idea that something very large and complex is fashioned out of something very small and rather insubstantial.

I suppose my description does sound like ‘jumping to conclusions,’ but somehow that doesn’t feel like the right phrase for it. I suppose because what I’m going for is not really about the fallacy so much as it is about a new reality being created in the mind of the viewer based on small amount of information, and the weight that re-reading that information hundreds of times seems to confer upon it.

I see. Something like misextrapolation, maybe?

Otherwise, I hope others have better answers.

Hm. Well, that’s another general concept that touches it, but somehow seems to lack the substance I was looking for… I feel like part of it is the idea that there is a divide between the corporeal world and the condensation of it into representative symbols (words), where people take those symbols as more than just vague indicators of reality, and instead expand them to be just as whole and real as the real thing.

There’s a belief in psychoanalytic circles that there are no accidents, and that the smallest chosen words or behaviors are indicative of all sorts of unconscious conflicts and motives. For example, a client coming in to a therapy session with a psychoanalyst might say “wow, I had such a hard time getting here on time - I was so busy at work and traffic was bad!” The analyst (in strict Freudian analysis) would interpret that to mean that the client didn’t really want to be there, since the client chose to start out the session with the phrase “I had such a hard time getting here.”

Is that similar to what you mean? In Freudian terms, it’s the idea that even our most throw-away statements are clues to our inner conflict. In my terms, it’s bullshit :smiley:

Haha, not quite. Maybe another way to put it is through this example.

Let’s say you are applying for a job. You put in an application, they seem interested, and everything looks good. Then, someone from the company starts searching around the internet and finds your Facebook page. On it, there’s a picture of you drinking beer and looking inebriated. Also you say ‘fuck’ in a comment to someone.

You find out later that you didn’t get the job. You find out somehow that it’s because of the Facebook page. Okay, so now the company representative is no longer interacting with you or directly interpreting your character through personal interaction with you. The context is gone, the tone of your character is gone, they have no idea what you’re like in person. All they are doing is reconstructing a ‘you’ out of fragments of reality and snippets of speech that have been condensed from real life into brief snapshots, and placed online. They are now taking those snapshots and building 3D models out of them about who you are and what you’re like. They are not interacting with you, but instead with some simulacrum of you, believing that this simulacrum is equivalent to, faithfully representative of, or otherwise an accurate representation of you.

You might want to ask for input from the lit crit or rhetoric folks rather than the psych folks.

I think that’s called “being a human.” Not to be snarky or dismissive, really, but we do that all the time with people we don’t know well (or at all). We take bits and pieces of what we see, and make assumptions about the person. It’s a combination of the fundamental attribution error, confirmation bias, and self-fulfilling prophecy.

I attribute it to our wonderful left hemisphere, which is designed to create order and meaning and pattern out of incoming chaos, and once that pattern is created, to stick to it.

well, thanks everyone for your help… I guess hyperreality is about the closest I’m going to get right now… I’ll try posting to the other folks in a couple days, Hunter Hawk. Thanks for the suggestion.

hey wait, I tried posting this on a philosophy forum and got the concept of a construal, which seems close to what I was looking for.