Keyboard Warriors Say Things Online But Not In Person

It’s common knowledge that people act and say things online that they wouldn’t often say or do in person. They become more open, relaxed, and willing to express themselves. It has two sharp edges. People occasionally divulge incredibly private information about themselves. They express repressed feelings, fears, and desires. Or they carry out extraordinary deeds of compassion and goodwill.

The disinhibition effect, however, might not be as beneficial. Out come crude language, critical remarks, hostility, and even threats. Or, people delve into the violent and pornographic corners of the internet that they would never venture to in the real world.

What leads to this online apathy? What is it about the internet that breaks down the psychological barriers preventing the expression of these underlying desires and feelings? There are several variables at work. One or two of these may generate the majority of the disinhibition impact for some persons. But most of the time, these elements work in concert and complement one another to produce a more complicated, intensified effect.

Remain Anonymous

With the possible exception of webmasters and other users with access to software tools that can detect traffic through the site, assuming they have the desire to keep an eye on you, one of perhaps hundreds or thousands of users, as you browse through websites, message boards, and even some chat rooms, people may not even be aware that you are there at all. People gain the confidence to act and go in ways they normally wouldn’t by becoming invisible.

Because anonymity is the concealment of identity, this concealment capability coincides with anonymity. But there are some significant variations. In text-based communication channels like email, chat, blogs, and instant messaging, other people may have a lot of information about you. They are still unable to see you or hear you, and you are also unable to see or hear them. The option to be physically invisible increases the disinhibition effect even though everyone’s identities are clearly evident. When you speak or type, you shouldn’t be concerned with how you sound or seem. When you speak, you shouldn’t be concerned about how you come across to others.

In psychoanalysis, the analyst sits behind the patient to maintain physical ambiguity and to avoid showing any body language or facial expressions. This allows the patient to speak freely without feeling constrained by the analyst’s physical reaction. People occasionally avert their eyes in casual relationships when talking about sensitive topics. It’s simpler to avoid the other person’s face. There is a built-in opportunity to keep one’s eyes closed when communicating via text.

Sensitive Topics

People’s train of thought may move more steadily and quickly towards more in-depth representations of their thoughts and feelings through e-mail and message boards where there are delays in that reply. Some individuals may even feel as though asynchronous communication is “running away” from them when they write a message that is nasty, personal, or emotional. Sometimes, as online psychotherapist Kali Munro so eloquently puts it, the person may be engaging in a “emotional hit and run.”

Text communication paired with missing face-to-face cues can affect people in unique ways. On occasion, people experience a mental fusion with their online companion. Of course, we may not be aware of what the other person’s voice genuinely sounds like, so we mentally give our companion a voice.

In fact, whether consciously or unconsciously, we might even give a visual representation of how we imagine that individual to look and act. We fill in the picture of that character with memories of those other acquaintances since the individual can even make us think of other people we know.

Cyberspace Participation

People often have fantasies of engaging in flirtation, debating with their boss, or bluntly telling a buddy how they feel. People feel free to say and do all kinds of things in their imaginations, where it is safe, that they wouldn’t in the real world. At that point, one’s imagination is reality. Online texting can turn into the psychological fabric that a person’s mind uses to create these fantasy role plays, usually unknowingly and with a great deal of openness. We are only participants on a stage that is all of cyberspace.

We get a somewhat different force that amplifies disinhibition if we mix solipsistic introjection with cyberspace. People may assume that the fictional people they “made” exist in a different setting, that their online persona and the people they interact with online exist in a fantasy realm that is distinct from the obligations and expectations of the actual world.

Dissociative imagination and dissociation anonymity typically differ in the complexity of the dissociated part of oneself, despite the fact that anonymity tends to magnify dissociative imagination. Because of anonymity, a person might attempt to disappear or cease to exist, which would reduce or simplify their identity.