I agree with most of these replies. I know that some will argue it's bad practice, but I disable chat and do not engage in conversation with anyone online. They cannot see me, I cannot see them, and internet text can be misinterpreted in so many ways, including forum posts (haha).
Instead, I focus on betting patterns. What are the players prone to do with what types of hands? What is the overall "mood" of the table (tight, loose, agressive, wreckless, etc.) and base my decisions off of that, plus some good math and odds
Playing live, however, listening to conversations and even partaking in a few can really help your image and help you get into the minds of your opponents.
Just my two cents!