Online Research – Breaking The Silence
Updated: Feb 27
There are a lot of people who, under normal circumstances, are reluctant to share their opinions with just anybody – often including trained researchers and interviewers.
This could happen to various people, from various reasons, such as:
· Introvert / shy people, which find it difficult to talk freely to newly met strangers
· People which are less trusting in other people due to past negative experiences
· Anybody, no matter how introvert or extrovert, when the discussion turns to sensitive topics
· In any society, there are some „silent” segments, which do not actively participate in the social discourse and which are not given enough attention in mainstream media.
Shy people: it’s pretty obvious they are not willing to start sharing their opinions just like that – sometimes even well-trained interviewers don’t succeed in gaining their trust and gathering all the answers they need. Online research can be especially helpful here – we all know it’s easier to open up in front of a computer, without the anxiety induced by the presence of a stranger.
Untrusting people: people who were scammed or had a lot of negative experiences when dealing with public and health officials or customer facing representatives from various companies, for example. These people will tend to instinctively adopt a defensive, passive-aggressive attitude when questioned and could be hard to convince them letting the guard down.
Sensitive topics: it’s well known that when discussing controversial issues with strangers, people often tend to provide what they think is the socially acceptable answer, not their real opinion. Take for example topics such as LGBTQ+ rights or abortion, especially in conservative societies. Another very recent example: in most countries where there is a serious backlash against Russia’s attack on Ukraine, it could be tricky to confess liking any Russian products (including Russian science & culture), even if you don’t approve the Russian state actions. Even usual topics – like sweets, meat and fat-rich food products – could sometimes be controversial than you expect, if you think about growing discussions about diet influence on chronic illnesses and health in general, about food production environmental impact and about animal rights.
Silent parts of the society: one of them is the usually hardworking, rather modest people, with a rather passive attitude towards outside forces (such as public officials and authorities in general) and which are focus mostly on carrying on with their daily lives. They have opinions like everybody else does, just are not used to express them outside their inner circle, certainly not in front of „important people”. This makes them interact with a human interviewer in a formal manner and, again, provide what they think is the socially acceptable answer, not their real opinion. Online interviews can make them feel more relaxed and be more open, without feeling any pressure from an „official person” (the interviewer).
Another silent part consists of more sophisticated people which are not shy in expressing their real opinions, but keep their involvement with public life at a low level. They see themselves as quite busy and tend to focus on what they think it’s really important for them. When contacted for a telephone or face-to-face interview, chances are the answer will be: „I don’t have time”. An online interview is more suitable, allowing them to take the survey at their own time and pace.
Anyway, no matter if it’s about introvert people, untrusting people, modest people, busy people or sensitive topics, online research can help overcome these barriers, making it possible to gather opinions which might otherwise remain unheard. We are all interested in breaking the silence, aren’t we?