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Theory into Practice: The Online Disinhibition Effect

You don't know me
Core Concept: Dissociative anonymity

The notion of "You Don't Know Me" comes down to simple anonymity: when the person remains anonymous, it provides a sense of protection; within the framework of the Internet, this allows the user to move about without any kind of indication of identity or even distinguishing characteristics other than potentially a username. This kind of protection can provide a meaningful release for people in that they feel free to say things they might otherwise be embarrassed to, but by the same token, it also provides an outlet for behaviors that others might term antisocial or harmful.
You can't see me
Core Concept: Invisibility

The Internet provides a shield to its users; often all one receives when interacting with another person on the Internet is a username or pseudonym that may or may not have anything to do with the real person behind the keyboard. This allows for misrepresentation of a person's true self; online a male can pose as a female and vice versa, for example. Additionally, the invisibility of the Internet prohibits people from reading standard social cues; small changes in facial expression, tone of voice, aversion of eyes, etc., all have specific connotations in normal face-to-face interaction.

This particular aspect overlaps heavily with anonymity, because the two often share attributes. However, even if one's identity is known and anonymity is removed from the equation, the inability to physically see the person on the other end causes one's inhibitions to be lowered. One can't be physically seen on the Internet, typically – therefore, the need to concern oneself with appearance and tone of voice is dramatically lowered and sometimes absent.

See you later
Core Concept: Asynchronicity

The asynchronous nature of the Internet can also affect a person's inhibitions. On internet message boards, conversations do not happen in real time. A reply may be posted as shortly as several minutes; however, it may take months or longer for someone to post. Because of this, it's easier for someone to "throw their opinions out" and then leave; a person can make a single post that might be considered very personal, emotionally charged, or inflammatory and then "run away" by simply not logging in again. In this way, the person achieves catharsis by "voicing" their feelings, even if the audience is just as invisible.

However, the asynchronous nature of the Internet also allows a person to more closely examine what they say and to more carefully choose their words; in this manner, someone who might otherwise have difficulty in face-to-face interactions can suddenly seem eloquent and well-mannered when reading message board posts or even in text-chat forums such as IRC or instant messaging.
It's all in my head
Core Concept: Solipsistic Introjection

Lacking any kind of visual face-to-face cues, the human mind will assign characteristics and traits to a "person" in interactions on the internet. Reading another person's message may insert imagined images of what a person looks like or sounds like into the mind, and mentally assigns an identity to these things. The mind will associate traits to a user according to our own desires, needs, and wishes – traits that the real person might not actually have.

Additionally, this allows fantasies to be played out in the mind, because the user may construct an elaborate system of emotions, memories, and images – inserting the user and the person they are interacting with into a role-play that helps reinforce the "reality" of the person on the other end within the mind of the user.

It's just a game
Core Concept: Dissociative Imagination

By combining solipsistic introjection with the imagination, a feeling of escapism is produced – a way to throw off mundane concerns to address a specific need without having to worry about consequences. According to Suler's personal discussion with lawyer Emily Finch (a criminal lawyer studying identity theft in cyberspace), Finch's observation is that people may see cyberspace as a kind of game where the normal rules of everyday interaction don't apply to them. In this way, the user is able to dissociate their online persona from the offline reality, effectively enabling that person to don that persona or shed it whenever they wish simply by logging on or off.

We're equals 
Core Concept: Minimizing Authority

Online, a person's status may not be known to others and often, this lack of hierarchy causes changes in interactions with others. If people can't see the user, others have no way to know if the user is an on-duty police officer, head of state, or some kind of "ordinary" person hanging out in their den on their computer. While real-world status may have a small effect on one's status on the Internet, it rarely has any true bearing. Instead, things such as communication skill, quality of ideas, persistence, and technical ability determine one's status in cyberspace.

Additionally, people can be reluctant to speak their minds in front of an authority figure. Fear of reprisal or disapproval quashes the desire to speak out, and on the Internet, levels of authority that might otherwise be present in real life are often completely absent; this turns what might otherwise be a superior-inferior relationship into a relationship of equals – and people are far more likely to speak their mind to an equal than a superior.

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