PJ Media

Toxic Disinhibition and Blog Comments

Have you noticed how free people feel to make comments on blogs to others that they would not necessarily make in the course of normal conversation? John Suler, a psychologist at Rider University, a href=”http://psycyber.blogspot.com/2006/01/where-did-all-aggression-go.html”has a good post /a on aggression and cyberspace and an article on the a href=”http://www.rider.edu/%7Esuler/psycyber/disinhibit.html”online disinhibition /a effect: br /br /blockquoteIt’s well known that people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world. They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly. Researchers call this the “disinhibition effect.” It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes people share very personal things about themselves. They reveal secret emotions, fears, wishes. Or they show unusual acts of kindness and generosity. We may call this benign disinhibition. br /br /On the other hand, the disinhibition effect may not be so benign. Out spills rude language and harsh criticisms, anger, hatred, even threats. Or people explore the dark underworld of the internet, places of pornography and violence, places they would never visit in the real world. We might call this toxic disinhibition. br /br /On the benign side, the disinhibition indicates an attempt to understand and explore oneself, to work through problems and find new ways of being. And sometimes, in toxic disinhibition, it is simply a blind catharsis, an acting out of unsavory needs and wishes without any personal growth at all.br /br /What causes this online disinhibition? What is it about cyberspace that loosens the psychological barriers that block the release of these inner feelings and needs? Several factors are at play. For some people, one or two of them produces the lion’s share of the disinhibition effect. In most cases, though, these factors interact with each other, supplement each other, resulting in a more complex, amplified effect./blockquotebr /br /Suler talks about how people hide behind anonymity on the internet and feel they can say more hostile and aggressive things online than they would to a person’s face. As I have said before, I do not mind if commenters wish to stay anonymous but I will ask my readers and commenters to please remember when responding to others, do not say things that you would not tell someone to their face–that goes for identifiable commenters also. I happen to be one of those people who is not terribly afraid of conflict. If I saw you in person and we were having a discussion, I would say the same things to you in person that I would online. I have a strong tolerance for negative comments, etc. (Remember, I deal with the most negative aspects of human behavior on a regular basis). They do not bother me terribly, however, they do bother others so please, respect the other commenters on this site and disagree in a polite manner. Any other suggestions for how to keep comments civil are welcome. Thanks!