Have you ever wondered why people say things in the cyberspace that they wouldn’t say or do face-to-face?
Well, I have thought of this many times.
Different communication forms allow an expression of the self which differs – sometimes subtly, sometimes greatly – from one another. In different online and offline settings, people present a different perspective of their identity: chat, email, blogs, video-cams, Facebook, face-to-face conversations, and other types of social communications. Each uniquely highlight certain aspects of self-expression and personal identity, while hiding others.
My main point is that people behave differently in an online setting than they would behave in an offline setting.
People who sit in front of a desk on their computer could potentially feel more empowered to behave and react in certain ways, as opposed to an offline setting in which they would feel shy or embarrassed to do so. On the other hand, people might be more abrupt and say inappropriate things online while knowing that they would never have to encounter this person face-to-face.
There are a number of reasons that can explain this dichotomy in behavior:
1. The Online Disinhibition Effect & The Benign (positive) Disinhibition Effect
The behavior can be both positive and negative on social media platforms – double edged sword.
The Online Disinhibition Effect – allows the psychological loosening or complete abandonment of social restrictions during interactions with others on the internet that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction. This effect results in reduced behavioral inhibitions, and a lower regard for behavioral boundaries in the cyberspace. These online behaviors can be expressed in both positive or negative forms. With this in mind, it is important that social media platforms regulate behaviors in the social environment.
The Online Benign Disinhibition Effect – also known as the “online self-disclosure effect.” Revealing personal information to others online, which can be both positive or negative. Furthermore, the anonymity of cyberspace provides an opportunity for communicators to share intimate and sensitive issues, including displaying one’s own vulnerability.
This chart shows what people think with regard to online and offline elements:
Only 29.4% in the age range 25-34, said they don’t feel a big distinction between online and offline interaction on social media. The majority feel there is a distinction between the two.
2. Varying Personalities
People are different, and different personality types exist in the cyberspace:
- Psychopathic (antisocial)
- Depressive and manic (impulsive)
- Masochistic (self-defeating)
- Obsessive and compulsive
- Hysterical (histrionic)
This results in people behaving differently on online platforms, and use these platforms to gain different types of satisfaction. Antisocial personalities might enjoy the anonymity and freedom of access. While, narcissistic personalities might use it to gain an admiring audience, etc.
3. Anonymity and Catfishing – You Don’t Know Me
Lack of face-to-face cues enable people to remain anonymous at times. An online presence affords people the ability to be themselves, express only what they want about themselves, or choose to remain anonymous (online dating platforms especially). So an online identity can be flexible and adapted to the situation.
4. Reduced Self-Awareness
Reading other people’s posts can decrease our self-awareness. When using social networks, people read others’ thoughts, feelings, and activities. This focus on others and away from ourselves may reduce our self-awareness.
Hate can easily be developed, especially when it comes to controversial topics. People have different political beliefs, and seeing those on social media can cause anger and a need to express or instigate an immediate response. People begin to forget about appropriate behavior, and may provide nasty comments online, especially at times when they know they won’t have to encounter that person face-to-face. Do you sometimes feel it’s easier to dislike someone online than offline?
6. Delay Response :-) Or :-(
Think about a time you were asked a question via email, you didn’t have to respond immediately, you could think about an answer, and you could resume conversation at your own convenience. I actually feel that this is beneficial at times!
7. Minimizing Authority – We are Equals
If people can’t see you or your surroundings, they don’t know if you are the CEO or president of a major corporation sitting in a prestigious-looking office, or some “ordinary” person lounging at home in front of their computer. Everyone on the internet has an equal opportunity to voice themselves, regardless of status, gender, race, etc. In an offline setting this may be different and people may fear punishment or feel restricted to convey their opinions, but in an online setting people can start from a point of equals. Furthermore, with the online appearance of minimized authority, people are more willing to speak out or misbehave.
Do you feel that this dichotomy can get really our of control? Or do you think that we all experience a bit of this dichotomy ourselves? Please leave your comments bellow, I’m interested to see what your thoughts are on this topic.