Online, oblivious, and obnoxious

Thanks to OZ's Joe Plummer for sending this article from Gord Hotchkiss about the psychology of trolling.

Why do people say horrible things online – things they likely would never say to someone in a more personal form of communication?

The author identifies two tipping points:

  • When you shift from expressing an opinion to preaching morality. Research suggests that people are more likely to endorse violence when a moral issue is at stake.
  • If you believe a lot of others share your views. This frees people to let loose with their darker, more destructive thoughts, which are often accompanied by violent language. The filter bubble that exists on social media makes it much easier to think that “everyone” shares your beliefs.

Sadly, we’re all susceptible to this to one degree or another. If we’re in a bad mood or cognitively stressed, we’re more likely to troll. We’re more likely to troll at certain times of day (which reminds me a lot of the thesis of Daniel Pink’s latest book, When, which focuses on how time of day affects our emotions and behavior).

TLDR: People suck.