New Scientist on online Flames


New Scientist has an article today that discusses why it is that people present themselves so differently online than they do in person:

“Social psychologists have known for decades that, if we reduce our sense of our own identity – a process called deindividuation – we are less likely to stick to social norms. For example, in the 1960s Leon Mann studied a nasty phenomenon called ‘suicide baiting’ – when someone threatening to jump from a high building is encouraged to do so by bystanders. Mann found that people were more likely to do this if they were part of a large crowd, if the jumper was above the 7th floor, and if it was dark. These are all factors that allowed the observers to lose their own individuality.

Social psychologist Nicholas Epley argues that much the same thing happens with online communication such as email. Psychologically, we are ‘distant’ from the person we’re talking to and less focused on our own identity. As a result we’re more prone to aggressive behaviour, he says.”

Interesting bit of information – that piece about deindividuation. I was one of the folks at Episcopal Cafe that insisted on making folks using their real names to leave comments on the site. My gut told me that doing so would raise the ratio of signal to noise. That’s been the case by the way. I’m one of the moderators on the blog and I get to read all the potential comments submitted. The ones that have a fake name are substantially different than the ones with a real name attached.

Now I know why.

Read the rest here.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...