In human sociology, there have been several social phenomena that seem strange and cannot be fully interpreted. The interesting thing about these strange phenomena is that most of them occur in a way which cannot be explained by means such as scientific research. Humans have a tendency to do things subconsciously; this is repeated by many different people from different parts and cultures all over the world. One of the strange phenomena in the contemporary world of technology and internet is the online disinhibition effect that is described in this paper.
The online disinhibition effect can be explained as the manner in which people act on the internet with little or no restraint at all as compared to the manner in which they behave in the real world. Most people change their ordinary behavior when online. The online disinhibition effect is an exceptionally controlling cognitive phenomenon that is represented by loosening of social inhibitions and restrictions that would otherwise be present in the natural face-to-face communications. A significant number of internet users have shown extreme and irrational tendencies. Some become less guarded and more affectionate; they reach out to others on the internet sharing their feelings, which seems to be an attempt to attain emotional catharsis.
Some people xhibit what is termed as “bad internet behavior,” while others are always looking for methods to exploit online resources to spark controversies. On the other hand, such people could be very discreet, but not controversial in any way in real life. They are believed to have two different lives – in reality and online. In most cases, online identities of such people will be different from their real identities. A single person could have up to ten identities online in different blogs and social media, none of which represent the real person. On the internet, most people tend to bring out their hidden personality traits that could otherwise not be exhibited in real life. It is possibly because the internet provides a feeling of safety and anonymity, ensuring the freedom and the shield for people to bring out the “dark” or other personalities that they cannot show in real life.
Some researchers have argued that the internet provides a platform for some games in which the ordinary real life rules cannot be applied to. For some unexplained reasons, a well-adjusted person will exhibit psychopathic or antisocial behavior when given the captive audience and the opportunity provided by the internet. There should be concerns about this online disinhibition effect as it indicates the true character of most people and the manner in which they would act in the absence of social consequence or a governing law.
A psychology Professor John Suler has written about the behavior of people online and described this occurrence as being fueled by six major factors. These factors include the anonymity on the internet that provides a notion of confidence and the “you can’t see me” factor where people use pseudonyms that may not relate in any way to the actual person. A male could pretend to be a female online and vice versa. The asynchronous nature of online communication allows people’s train of thoughts to progress steadily towards deep expressions of whatever they are thinking about. The internet provides safety in sense that in case the audience responds in a hostile way, the person can escape the wrath by simply not logging in again or changing their identity.
When people cannot see one’s face or his/her surrounding in addition to someone’s real identity, most of them get the feeling that all people are equal and hence there is no need for the regular offline status and power, and all people have a level l playing field. One should also note that the disinhibition effect is not entirely responsible for the way people behave online; instead, the strength of the underlying drive, feelings, needs, and personality variables play a substantial part in the way people behave in cyberspace.