Online Disinhibition Effect

The Internet has brought about numerous changes in social relationships, and the online disinhibition effect has been heavily discussed and documented. This effect characterizes the tendency of people to experience a dramatic loosening of inhibitions on the Internet. This is partially due to the anonymity offered by websites, message boards, and blog commenting, but even when Internet posts are not anonymous, the effect frequently still occurs. For example, people might post things to their Facebook walls that they would never tell each individual Facebook friend they have.

Dangers of Online Disinhibition Effect
The online disinhibition effect helps to explain the vicious attacks people frequently engage in online. Mean-spirited blog comments, threatening e-mails, and other negative comments are often encouraged by this effect. Some people “troll” others on the internet even if they would never bully someone in real life. The disinhibition effect of online culture also helps to encourage cyber-bullying and groupthink. This effect can cross over into real life. For example, a group of students might bully a classmate online and then feel emboldened to bully him or her in person. There have been several well-documented cases of online bullying leading to organized efforts to ostracize classmates, severe depression in victims, and even suicide.

Benefits of Online Disinhibition Effect
While the online disinhibition effect can greatly increase the cruelty of some people and may cause political debates to rage completely out of control, it offers several benefits. Socially isolated people may feel less self-conscious or shy on the internet. Thus they are better-equipped to make friends and establish online personas that may help to give them greater confidence in real life. The effect also helps to normalize previously taboo subjects such as transgenderism, sexual kinks, and deviant sexualities. People are able to find communities of similarly-situated people, which can be extremely empowering.

Reference:

  1. The online disinhibition effect. (n.d.). Psychology of Cyberspace. Retrieved from http://users.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/disinhibit.html

Last Updated: 08-12-2015

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