It’s no secret that people may act differently depending upon their environment, but the widespread use of the internet may be encouraging certain kinds of behaviors among users, breaking down typical barriers that prevent rudeness and cruelty. At least, this would seem to be the case in a recent clash between a prominent political figure who had planned to speak in Canada and a group of angry internet surfers who made their opinions about the figure clear. These opinions have been described as taking on the tone of outright insults, an issue which may contribute to concerns such as cyber-bullying.
In reaction to the incident, a professor at the Universite de Montreal has noted that the perceived anonymity of posting on the web allows users to feel more at ease when sounding off on strong emotions. This behavior does not necessarily limit itself to cases of true anonymity, however. As pointed out in the press, some internet venues involve screen names and other identifying attributes that clearly reflect the name, and sometimes even the location, of the person being studied. Nevertheless, it is thought that the lack of visual clues and interactive body language results in the feeling of “online disinhibition” solely when others are not physically present.
The professor also points out, however, that the internet has made it simpler than ever before for individuals to meet and bond with others, and such encounters may result in healthy exchanges or even a relationship. The use of psychotherapy and other types of treatment has also been increasingly brought to the medium of the internet, with scores of private practices and clinical professionals offering their credentials and personal philosophies online. While the relationship between the internet and psychotherapeutic services may change over time, it is clear that the internet may prove instrumental in stirring up behavioral trouble –and addressing it with proper care.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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