The Online Disinhibition Effect
When we interact in face to face settings, even though we might not know it, we are following unwritten rules of conduct. These social rules have been established and enforced since our birth. Although they are rarely sanctioned by an authority figure, they often involve social consequences. As an example, when you are talking to a room full of people and you notice them starting to fall asleep, you might change your pitch, tone or even the information you are trying to convey in order to not suffer the consequences of people nodding off. These unwritten rules are also the reason you keep your shirt on when walking through the grocery store. Unless a person is purposefully trying to violate one of these social norms, we tend to follow them without incident.
What happens when you take away face to face social consequences when communicating with others? You get the online disinhibition effect.
The online disinhibition effect is a loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interactions with others on the internet.* Psychologist John Suler researched this effect and identified six factors to why people react the way they do when there is a perceived separation of the social norms that govern face-to-face interactions.
The results of breaking the traditional social norms while under the effects of online disinhibition can sometimes come in the form of cyberbullying. Although this gets lots of attention, there is a far bigger issue at stake for this upcoming generation. Poor decisions can ultimately lead to the loss of a job, or not being able to get one in the first place. Even decisions in high school, such as posting photos from a party, or talking about drugs or alcohol could impact a person’s ability to get a job many years later. As employers are starting to utilize the public nature of social media sites to check in on current and potential employees, it is more important than ever to treat all your social media interactions with careful scrutiny.
The solution to combating the online disinhibition effect is education. The more you know and understand about the way you communicate, the less likely you are to abandon traditional social rules in the digital space.
Here are some links to some great places to get started with teaching how the internet works, to help with the online disinhibition effect.
iKeepsafe.org – Online Saftey Education
Commoncraft.com – Explaination of Complex Subjects Including Tech
Commonsensemedia.org – Family Internet Education
Sos.fbi.gov – Safe Internet Use from the FBI
Younger Students: http://pbskids.org/webonauts/