People tend to speak their mind when they're online. It's not always a lovely phenomenon. In fact, it's best known for being the reason why people feel free to say unpleasant things to one another on Twitter, troll celebrities, or even issue death threats. However, our online honesty doesn't have to be a negative force in life. In fact, it could transform your finances for the better.
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The fact that we're more likely to be open when we're online was identified back in 2004, when John Suler, the professor of psychology at Rider University, wrote about what he called the disinhibition effect.
He identified that people feel anonymous, so protected from any backlash against their views. They also feel invisible, so unafraid of how they come across, and they dissociate themselves from their own comments (by thinking it's all a game).
It's why people face such hatred when they post something controversial on social media. It's also one of the drivers identified behind online bullying.
However, Suler identified that while the effect can be toxic, it can also be benign. It can help us overcome taboos and barriers to communication that might stop us from discussing something in real life. And one of the issues it can transform is money.
There are five ways in which the effect can make an enormous difference to our financial life.
1) It can help people open up about money worries in an anonymous environment - to seek the help and support they need in order to address it. National Debtline, for example, is a charity that offers advice though a web chat, allowing you to stay anonymous and invisible.
2) It can encourage us to ask 'stupid' questions. In person we're likely to want to save face. Online, if there's anything we don't understand, it's much easier to ask.
3) It can help us broach money issues with people we know. By removing us from embarrassment in person we can address money issues that we struggle with in person. If, for example, you are struggling to ask for a pay rise, you can send an email to your boss, with a few vital bullet points about why you deserve a pay rise, and a request for a meeting. By the time you get to the meeting, your boss will know exactly what you want, and why, and is likely to start the conversation for you.
4) It can provide a structure for sharing details with your other half. Rather than having endless chats about spending decisions, you can use an app that lets you keep track of any joint finances. It takes the heat out of discussions, and allows you both to view any spending decisions in context.
5) You can employ technology to do the legwork for you. If, for example, a friend has borrowed money and you want it back, you don't have to broach the subject in person. There are loads of different apps that can help, including Circlepay, which lets you send a request to a friend to repay cash they owe and include a GIF or emoji within the message. They can then repay via text message, so the whole thing becomes an entirely online exchange.