Social norms

(Pearls Before Swine)

I like to think that I interact online the same way that I do face-to-face. It seems natural to me to be consistent. In fact, I once asked a good friend of mine who reads my blog whether I came across online as the same person that she knew personally and she said that I did. Of course, since we had the conversation face-to-face, she may have been being polite but I don’t think so because we are good enough friends that she could be honest. In addition, she is tactful enough to tell me the truth sensitively.

So it is a mystery to me that some people seem to adopt such different personas in the two spaces. Or are people who are so gratuitously rude on the internet that way in real life too and I am just fortunate in not knowing them personally?


  1. says

    I did a quick search but there were no articles (from reputable sources, any) comparing unpleasant online behaviour and mob behaviour offline.

    Although the first is done as an individual and the second as a group, they have something in common: They feel they can act without consequences. They see themselves as isolated from accountability, the difference being the one in the mob has a sense of anonymity, the one online protected by distance. Eliminate the distance (i.e. real world names and addresses on accounts) and make group smaller (e.g. dividing them) and they change their behaviour.

  2. outis says

    There’s several instances of people confronting their trolls face-to-face, and in such cases a sudden transformation from fire-spitting beast to fluffy kitteh is the result. A couple of examples:

    It also seems that often this behavior is caused by deep psychological discomfort.
    Or so they say… sometimes it’s difficult to see what is “heartfelt excuses” or “mealy-mouthed get-out-of-jail card”.

  3. Deepak Shetty says

    When I used to comment pseudonymously , I think I was probably much ruder than when I started using my real name. It wasn’t a conscious decision , just with hindsight I can see that , that was the case (or maybe its just age!).

    So it is a mystery to me that some people seem to adopt such different personas in the two spaces

    I do think you have an example of this right on FTB -- Hint : its probably the most read blog host 🙂

  4. Bruce says

    I fear that part of it comes from people who were raised Christian and got a bad moral education. I think the large majority of everyone, including Christians, are good and moral people. But that a few Christians misunderstand the doctrine to mean that, because God is always watching, that somehow means that morality is being good when someone is watching. The corollary of this is that there is for them no real reason to be good when nobody is watching. If one then extrapolates to say that God doesn’t care if you insult people anonymously, then they conclude that they can still be good moral Christian’s while freely insulting anyone they want on line, if they are anonymous there.
    Again, I think most people, including most Christians, do not think like this. But for people who are inclined this way anyway, they can choose to twist or misapply Christianity as an excuse or cover to be rude when they figure nobody is watching. That is, the Christian saturation of Western morality has given license to a few to ignore any moral principles, maybe because Jesus is handling everything and I don’t see him reading over my shoulder as I type.
    If a thousand people read one blog post, and 99% are good, you’d still have 10 trolls, of whom some are Christian.

  5. mnb0 says

    “Or are people who are so gratuitously rude on the internet that way in real life too and I am just fortunate in not knowing them personally?”
    AfaIc, Dutchies are known as the rudest people in the world in daily life.

    “because we are good enough friends that she could be honest”
    This is so unDutch. In The Netherlands being direct and brutally honest is seen as a virtue.

    Indeed I hate it when people try to interpret what I write by reading between the lines. I mean what I write and write what I mean (unless I’m joking, duh). Of course I sometimes formulate clumsily; then I almost always take it as my fault and try to clarify.
    Dutch language has several of the most creative insults and swearing mankind ever invented. A mild one is calling someone a pancake. I’ll save you the really bad ones.
    Thanks to my Surinamese better halves I’ve improved my manners in daily life, but I suspect I forget that now and then on internet.

  6. says

    Facebook has a real name policy and that doesn’t stop people from letting their assholery hang out for all the world to see. There are very garbage people who post on Twitter not only under their real names, but surprisingly often with their own business or employer in their bio. Anonymity is less of a problem than too many people make it out to be. I’m not saying it doesn’t factor into it, there is a fear of being doxxed in a lot of trolls, but a real name internet would not make it a better place to be.

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