Does Anonymity have a negative affect on internet users personalities?
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The Disinhibition effect, Shifting the human brain into aggressive.

My conclusions on the affects of Anonymity on the internet.

Joshua Swansey's insight:

                What affects does anonymity have on a person? When their identity is masked behind a vale do they act differently? In my research I have found that people often dramatically change their behavior when they perceive that they are anonymous.  The effects of anonymity on the internet are often discussed but what is the truth of it all.

                The effect is call the disinhibition effect, the idea that when a person is anonymous they have a shift in their personality. This does not only apply to the internet though, people feel the same shift when they are on the phone or even behind the wheel of a car. Fits of rage while driving, over sharing online, and aggressive phone conversations are all way that people feel the disinhibition effect.

                For some people being cloaked behind the internet become more open and friendly individuals. The perception on privacy and anonymity allows them to open up more about things that they would not usually share. A large movement in psychiatry right now is online counseling and support groups. People are able to reach more people that share their problems and the fact that they will more than likely never meet this person allows them to be more open. This new openness allows for deeper understanding and more help for those who need it. Some people even develop close in depth relationships without even knowing each other's names and only working through pseudonyms. The positive effects of online anonymity though are unfortunately outweighed by the negative side effects.

                While some use this new found freedom for good others seize this new landscape to become cruel and almost inhumane people. The idea of internet trolls is wide spread and has become a large problem in the online community. Plato in "The Ring of Gyges" discusses how a man only acts according to morality when he has to face the consequences of his immoral actions. The idea that even the kindest and most moral of men would become a thief if he was invisible rings true on the internet. People often comment and say things on the internet that they would never say online. But this effect is not only limited to online activity. Behind the wheel of the car people often feel intense fits of rage that are completely uncharacteristic for them. While behind the screen of the computer people make cruel comments and often are just looking to get into a confrontation. The internet tough guy is a common theme online in message boards and forums throughout the world.  But the community is reacting to this group of people and some steps are being taken to stop them.

                While for the most part the internet allows people to make anonymous comments about almost anything, some actions are being taken to stop the trolls and internet tough guys. Gawker media is a popular internet news organization that run several sites including the technology site Gizmodo have been taking strong steps to eliminate these online predators. They no longer allow for people to comment anonymously on their site. A user account must be created and they must give a name and email address. Although it is easy enough to create a fake pseudonym for themselves and try to subvert this layer of protection the next step that Gawker is taking is ingenious. After an account is created the first few comments of the new users are reviewed by moderators before they make it into the public eye. This allows them to weed out people who are only making an account to be a troll or make negative comments. Only after your first comments are approved are you allowed to openly post. But that is not the last step of the new users evaluation. The other users then rate the comments of the user and eventually with good enough ratings you become a preferred user, preferred users activity is pushed to the top of the comments. This new filtration techniques makes sure that poor or unconstructive comments remain in the depths of the site while comments that contain a higher quality or unique perspective rise to the top. More sites need to take this more active method of moderation. With more moderation the community could flourish into a kinder and more constructive community.

                Overall the internet is of course effected by anonymity but it is not the only medium that is. People associate negative behavior and anonymity on the internet but fail to see that it is only human nature to act more outrageously when no one can identify you. Plato's theories only prove that this is far from a new problem. Hopefully the community can band together and stop people from using the freedoms of the web for a negative purpose, while still maintaining the positive side of being anonymous on the web. With some work from content creators and users alike the internet could become a new heaven for people to speak freely and openly.

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Erik Marshall's comment, June 12, 2013 8:04 AM
Very thorough discussion of anonymity.
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Psychology of Cyberspace -Online Therapy and Support Groups

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This discusses the positive side of anonymity. The use of the internet for therapy and online support groups. These world wide groups allow people to be in constant contact with supporters that they would not be able to find and use if it for the internet. This interaction also lead to close knit relationships with members of the group that created and even deeper level of sharing and support. Therapy using the internet is a rapidly expanding realm that is hit or miss but has definite advantages to the standard offline approach.

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p103.pdf

Joshua Swansey's insight:

This article reflects on the affects of anonymity by discussing Milgram's experiment and the results that it found. In Milgram's experiment he found that people acting under a cloak of anonymity were more willing to dole out punishment to someone that they did not know. This was espicially true when a authoritative posistion was giving the order to dispence the punishment. Also when th visual anonymity was removedpeople became less willing to punish the other person, even more so when they were asked to force the subject to except the punishment. This points out that if a person can pass the blame to someone else they are more likely to act in ways that they see as wrong.

 

This article aslo discusses the affects of anonymity of Chat Rooms and Text Messaging. These new forms of communication allow for people to create pseudonyms for themselves. These pseudonym are generally more extreme versions of their normal personality and allow people to claim their work while remaining anynomous to the public. The other way these new forums of comunications allow people to act differently is through the asynchronous aspect of the communication. The time that a user gets between messages allows them to contemplate and refine their responce in a way that you do not get in a face to face interaction. This contemplation often leads to a more refined and polished self.

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Psychology of Cyberspace - The Online Disinhibition Effect

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This is an easier to read version of John Suler’s "The Online Disinhibition Effect." This article puts Suler's writing into more easily understandable terms and let me really grasp what he was trying to articulate.

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Anonymity_and_Personality.pdf

Joshua Swansey's insight:

This paper takes an interesting perspective on the effects of anonymity on the internet. Describing not only the cloaking effect that so many feel but also the idea of "another self.” The idea that people create a perfect social portrayal of them selves and the effects that this can have on a persons personality long term. All topics are related to marketing and what this shift in personality can mean to a marketer.

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Great Philosophers: Plato - Ethics - The Ring of Gyges

Great Philosophers: Plato - Ethics - The Ring of Gyges | Does Anonymity have a negative affect on internet users personalities? | Scoop.it
Joshua Swansey's insight:

Plato's ideas about ethics and what binds a man to them. The idea of a ring that makes a man invisible and how it would change his morality. Even the most honest and virtues of men would become a thief according to Plato if he had no consequences to face.

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Online, Anonymity Breeds Contempt

Online, Anonymity Breeds Contempt | Does Anonymity have a negative affect on internet users personalities? | Scoop.it
How Web sites can put an end to inflammatory comments from “trolls.”
Joshua Swansey's insight:

This article discusses trolls and how anonymity allows them to say things that they would not say in a face to face interaction. Covering a few events and the cruel things that people have done under the cover of anonymity. Also it discusses steps that can be taken to eliminate trolls on message boards and forums, listing specific examples of systems that are being used today. The biggest suggestion is to limit anonymity, while also moderating users comments. Gizmodo and other Gawker sites are sited as using strong anti-trolling system.

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document.php?id=77099

Joshua Swansey's insight:

This article breaks down the research done on group dynamics and the two theories that attempt to explain it. The first theory is Deindividuation Theory, this theory states that an individual within a group uses the anonymity that they gain as a way to justify un-normative or aggressive behavior. The basic principle to the theory is that a person loses their self regulation while in a group.This theory relates to mob mentality and events like riots. The second theory is The Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE). This theory suggests that within a group an individual acts according to local or group norms. The idea is that if a person believes a group to be important they may conform to the norms of the group even though they personally may not behave that way as an individual. This is like how a person can act around a close group of friends or a team. They feel more comfortable because of this group and adopt the ideals of the group while they are in it.

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Suler.pdf

Joshua Swansey's insight:

This article discusses the factors that create "The Online Disinhibition Effect". The six factors are dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic in-trojection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority. All of these factors in some way contribute to an internet users more aggressive or intense behavior, or more frequent self disclosure. This article explores not only the negative effect of disinhibition but the positives. Some users are willing to disclose more personal feelings and obtain help or help others due to the cloak that the internet provides them. JOHN SULER, Ph.D. believes that the internet does not reveal a true self that is hidden under a socially acceptable image but that a shift in social norms creates a slightly different and new persona.

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Anonymity opens up split personality zone

Anonymity opens up split personality zone | Does Anonymity have a negative affect on internet users personalities? | Scoop.it
Between out-of-control customers, vituperative online posters and road-raging drivers, it’s hard to find an individual who hasn’t succumbed to the siren song of faceless, consequence-free communication.
Joshua Swansey's insight:

This article gives insight into the world of anonymity. This includes not only the internet but also, phones, and driving. The idea that even the most docile and kind people can become rage infected monsters when they feel that they will not feel any repercussions. Several cases of negative behavior online, through the phone, and behind the wheel are given to explain the negative effects that anonymity can have on a persons behavior.

 

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