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."