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Why We're So Rude on the Internet

Most people join social networks like Facebook in order to MAKE friends, but in the process, they often end up LOSING them instead, because people tend to become surprisingly nasty to each other online, texting things they would never say to someone face to face.

Psychologists think this has to do with the face that we're more anonymous on the internet, and hiding behind that screen makes us feel invincible. But this loss of self control is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks are made up of close friends. The encouragement we get from these networks in the form of "likes" boosts our self-esteem, giving us an inflated sense of self--and when that happens, we tend to exhibit poor self-control.

In the October 2nd edition of the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Bernstein quotes researcher Keith Wilcox as saying, "Think of it as a licensing effect: You feel good about yourself so you feel a sense of entitlement, and you want to protect that enhanced view, which might be why people are lashing out so strongly at others who don't share their opinions." It's the same type of behavior exhibited by people who drink too much alcohol.

We're less inhibited online because we don't have to see the reaction of the person we're addressing. Bernstein quotes psychologist Sherry Turkle as saying, "You are publishing but you don't feel like you are. So what if you say 'I hate you' on this tiny little thing? It's like a toy. It doesn't feel consequential."

The very name "Facebook" is part of the problem: Bernstein quotes Turkle as saying, "It promises us a face and a place where we are going to have friends. If you get something hurtful there, you're not prepared. You feel doubly affronted, so you strike back."

Sometimes Anne and Whitley want to strike back. Have they fended off so many attacks over the years, only to die from neglect today? Only YOU can change that: Subscribe today!

This is why I deactivated my Facebook account. I found it to be a profound source of stress in my life.

It is also one of the main reasons why I don't participate in social networks or blogs either. I was active in indymedia in its first couple of years as an anonymous commenter, and I have a web site. I got into some debates. I post very little nowadays. Perhaps I will update my web site for professional reasons, but I am not looking for online conversations any time soon. So far, it's been pretty good here for me. Whitley and Anne seem fairly reserved. Sorry if I am rude to anybody.

I guess some folks' true colors are shining through, and they aren't exactly beautiful like a rainbow.


Social networking has its specific uses, especially if you're marketing a business or if you're trying to locate lost friends and relatives for example, but for me, I found it to be a horrible waste of time; time I could have been using doing more constructive things.

How, exactly, is it possible to have hundreds of 'friends'?

I've never really grasped the point of facebook; it always struck me as another form of clutter in a world of rapidly diminishing privacy.

Why on Earth a female would ever want to put her photograph and comings and goings up for the whole creepy world to see is simply beyond me.

I was dragged kicking and screaming onto Facebook.

I was on the Planning Committee for my (mumble-mumble)th high school reunion ... and the head man in charge decided that e-mail was too inefficient, so he created a Facebook group for us all.

That reunion came and went (it could have been better), but I kept the FB account up.

Eventually I found myself in several groups related to what I'm in school for: Court reporting. This is good for me, because I have a website related to the field aimed at new students, though apparently working reporters find it useful as well.

I have also run into a few people that say things that they would probably not say if they were having a face-to-face conversation with the other person, and I occasionally post a link to an article on my site that addresses behavior on court reporting forums:

Von Hausenberg raised an interesting point in her post; but profile pictures can be pretty much anything: mine is *rarely* my actual picture, and I will post a status update only rarely ... and even then it's not the mundane minutiae people post about ("Made waffles for breakfast, only to find I had no syrup! Threw it out.").

Long story short, I believe Facebook is more useful if you use it for networking with people in your chosen field of work or study, or in which you have an interest (crock pot cooking, anyone?). Avoid (and block) any FB game requests, follow the applicable suggestions in my "Art of the Forum" article up there, and you (and here I mean "you," in the generic sense) should be just fine.

Boy, it sure happened to me, as my new Diary attests! I think that lots of times we're too quick to press the "send" button, but emails DO reveal what people REALLY think of you, much better than a nice chat over cups of tea ever could. To cite more Biblical verses, I'm going to remember what Jesus told his disciples (I paraphrase): "When you go to a town and they don't accept you, kick the dust off your sandals and move on" and "Don't cast your pearls before swine." I was doing lots of favors for this person, which is why it especially hurt when she "attacked." I wonder if I was doing them for the right reason--or out of wanting to project a altruistic image of myself TO myself. My diary "Fearlessness" talks about that a little.

This is similar to the way people behave in their cars; as if they are anonymous and insulated. You would never pick your nose or give the finger in front of your boss or pastor, but you might on the freeway if he/she were driving next to you and you didn't recognize them right away.
I overheard someone confront someone else in the supermarket about their driving outburst, when actually both parties would never dream of acting that way in person.

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