Why People Act Differently Online

Ah, the Internet…the best technological breakthrough of all time — while at the same time, the worst. It’s good for a million reasons that I’m not going to break down; it’s bad for another hundred reasons that I’m not going to break down either, except for this: trolls and double personalities.

Being on social networks is like socializing in real life…when one is drunk. Most of us may act more like ourselves, more candid. Candid is good, although some people are so intense online that I prefer their offline version.

I always remember when I was coming out of my shell back in the Myspace days, and a coworker brought my (online) personality to my own attention. “You’re so quiet here, but so wild online,” she said. According to her, I came off as “slutty” and “surprisingly had a voice” of my own online. Judgmental much?!

Okay, maybe it was true. She had a point. Online, I did feel better about myself, like nobody was watching. I felt free to do and say whatever I wanted. I wasn’t camera-shy and I wrote my opinion wherever it wasn’t solicited. My voice was going to be heard and there was nothing people could do about it. I even had one of those blogs where I constantly spilled out my thoughts (some things never change). My online persona was my alter ego.

But I didn’t know. I thought I was being myself in both worlds. It got me thinking that maybe it was time to go with the persona that made me feel better, and that was the candid me.

And then there are the trolls. A troll is a person (I think they’re human) who attacks online users for the hell of it. Trolls love going off-topic, they love anonymity and they don’t have a life. The Internet is full of them. It is, unfortunately, one of the downsides of the Internet.

The belief that there is less room to judge when people don’t know you that well encourages us to pull a hakuna matata. In a way, that’s good; no inhibitions. In real life, people are so afraid of being judged—understandably— and being labeled as weirdos by society. They’re afraid that they may not fit in. Thus for them, real life is not a good place to be.

So, could it be that people are more open online because the Internet gives them that sense of secrecy, even if they may not really appear anonymous (e.g., on Twitter, Facebook, etc.)? I believe so. If all labels were removed from society, it would be a lot easier for people to be themselves, “weird” or not.

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