What exactly is the online disinhibition effect?

I dare say that everyone who is online has at some point stumbled across someone's comments that clearly showed that this person is completely over the top. This can manifest itself in excessively careless or even hateful statements. Things are said or written that would probably have been kept to themselves in real life. But how does that happen? The answer, as is often the case, is a psychological phenomenon that influences our behavior, and that's what we're going to look at today.

What is the online disinhibition effect?

The online disinhibition effect is a psychological phenomenon in which people often feel more comfortable when they can express themselves uninhibited on the Internet. Psychologists have studied this effect in detail and found that it is usually due to the feeling of anonymity and security that the Internet gives us - so we can talk openly about our views and behavior without fear of consequences or judgment.

How does this effect work?

At its core, the online disinhibition effect works by breaking down social barriers that normally exist in real life - people feel they can freely say what they want without consequence. This often leads to behaviors you wouldn't see outside of an anonymous environment, such as trolling or flaming (making inflammatory remarks toward others) - although it can also lead to positive outcomes such as increased creativity or self-expression, as people feel liberated from their everyday worries or fears.

Other theories suggest that this behavior is not always intentional either, as people can inadvertently reveal information they would not normally disclose because they are not aware of what they are saying - especially if they are not used to interacting with other people through a digital medium. For example, someone might upload a sensitive photo of themselves that would hardly have been shared with anyone in real life....

This classic example of the online disinhibition effect was particularly evident in the early days of social media, when users uploaded pictures without thinking about the possible consequences - leading to some embarrassing moments for those involved (or the employers who eventually saw them). Another example can be seen daily on sites like Reddit or 4chan, where users tend to argue aggressively even when no one else agrees - something that would probably never happen in real life for fear of embarrassment or consequences.


In summary, knowing the online disinhibition effect can help us communicate more effectively and respectfully online.

If we recognize this effect, we can avoid falling into these behaviors ourselves and empathize with others who act out of frustration or insecurity. We can also learn to deal with negative mood on the Internet and protect our mental health.

"Kindness is the golden chain that holds society together."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
North Sea, Holland. Left in the picture: Lukas

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