February 20th, 2007

breaking bad

Online disinhibition

This article argues that people behave worse online than they do in real life. It's a familiar suggestion - that without social constraint, people become psychopathic. Like in ancient celebrations of misrule, where people adopt animal masks and false identities to disinhibit themselves. Possession by the spirits may be another example I guess.

Is this true human nature coming through freed from artificial constraint? IMHO it's the contrary - social feedback is part of what makes us human, and short-circuiting that feedback gives us a temporary holiday from our 'selves', for good or ill. Like getting drunk.

Though I sometimes wonder whether I behave better online than I do in person. I have many faults in RL conversation - interrupting people, getting cross, getting fidgety - which I try to rein in on the Internet nowadays. I adopt this social persona as communicator and I have an investment in behaving in a faintly civilised way, in order to remain embedded in a milieu - livejournal and associated blogs. So no online Saturnalia for me.