Saturday, October 2, 2010

CyberPsychology 101: The Online Disinhibition Effect (Part 2)

I’ve summarized some of the factors responsible for the increased online disinhibition of people. The following factors are taken from the book, CyberPsychology and Behavior (2004) by John Suler.

You Don't Know Me (dissociative anonymity)
People can keep their identity hidden in the Internet – they can have no name or at least they can opt not to give their real name. When people have the opportunity to separate their actions from their real world and identity, they feel less vulnerable about opening up. Whatever they say or do can't be directly linked to the rest of their lives.

You Can't See Me (invisibility)
In many online environments, people cannot see each other. Invisibility gives people the courage to go places and do things that they otherwise wouldn't as they won’t have to worry about how they look or sound to others and vice-versa.

See You Later (asynchronicity)
In e-mail and message boards, communication is asynchronous. People don't interact with each other in real time. Others may take minutes, hours, days, or even months to reply to something you say. Not having to deal with someone's immediate reaction can be disinhibiting. In real life, it would be like saying something to someone, magically suspending time before that person can reply, and then returning to the conversation when you're willing and able to hear the response.

It's All in My Head (solipsistic introjection)
Reading another person's message might be experienced as a voice within one's head, as if that person magically has been inserted or "introjected" into one's psyche. In their imagination, where it's safe, people feel free to say and do all sorts of things that they wouldn't in reality. At that moment, reality IS one's imagination.

It's Just a Game (dissociative imagination)
People may feel that the imaginary characters they "created" exist in a different space, that one's online persona along with the online others live in an make-believe dimension, a dream world, separate and apart from the demands and responsibilities of the real world. They split or "dissociate" online fiction from offline fact. Under the influence of anonymity, the person may try to be invisible, to become a non-person, resulting in a reducing or simplifying of identity. During dissociative imagination, the self that is expressed, but split-off, tends to be more elaborate.

We're Equals (minimizing authority)
If people can't see you or your surroundings, they don't know if you are the president of a major corporation sitting in your expensive office, or some "ordinary" person lounging around at home in front of the computer. Everyone - regardless of status, wealth, race, gender, etc. - starts off on a level playing field.


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