Why are you so mean online?
- October 3, 2012
By Jordan Wyant
Michigan Radio Newsroom
This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with chat rooms or the comments sections of blogs. But why do people say things online that they would never say out loud?
A recent article in the Detroit Free Press asked a few experts what they thought.
"We behave in a different way when online. It's as if you're wearing a cloak or a mask and, well, you can get away with it," says Daniel Martin, associate professor of management at California State University East Bay and a visiting associate professor at Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.
"Psychologists call it deindividuation," Martin said. "When in a mask or uniform or group, you cease to recognize even yourself as an individual and therefore don't see others that way, either, don't see how you're hurting someone."
This type of deindividuation unique to the internet—what you might call “flaming” or “trolling”—social scientists call the “online disinhibition effect.” They say it accounts for the aggression, vulgarity, and downright meanness we see online.