Why people are dicks on the internet
Comments on The Tab can be pretty mean sometimes
Oh boo hoo. Look, another journo having a self-indulgent whinge about his audience (and, all things considered, I haven’t had it as bad as some *cough* Ivers *cough*).
And anyway, The Tab has never, ever flung any shit of its own.
Let’s face it, people on the internet are wankers. Not everyone, of course, but the ratio of wankers to non-wankers is astronomically higher. For instance, I wouldn’t expect someone to walk up to me on King’s Parade and say this about one of my articles (even if it was shit); but someone from Cambridge still wrote it:
So I decided to set off on a quest to answer the immortal question: “what is it about the Internet that turns us into wankers?” (Poor choice of words, perhaps). With nought but my iPhone to guide me, I journeyed through the Nether-regions beneath Youtube videos, past Katie Hopkin’s Twitter account and was abrazed by a 10-year-old on Call of Duty.
At last, I found my way to Berni Good, Britain’s pre-eminent cyber-psychologist, who studies how humans interact online and through social media. She’s been interviewed by the Guardian and the BBC; featured in Charlie Brooker’s Video Games That Changed the World and even became a meme at one point.
And now she’s on The Tab. Wow. Career High Point.
“So Berni”, asked I, “why are people such dicks on the internet?”
She looked at me long before replying:
“When people are engaged in computer mediated communication they often experience a phenomenon known as the Disinhibition Effect. In this state people’s inhibitions are lowered because the social norms of face-to-face communication are removed.
The effect on human behaviour means that people may say something that they would not say face to face, because they don’t perceive authority within these communications.
Even when their identify is obvious, they may think that they are anonymous.
This may lead to behaviour such as cyber bullying, for example.”
“Ah”, I thought to myself, translating this into language a simple Fresher could understand: “being on the internet is like being pissed, and The Tab comments the equivalent of Johnians after a Rugby Swap. Interesting.”
“But Berni, must it always manifest itself in negative ways?” I inquired.
“Not necessarily.” She replied, with a wry half-smile.
“There is research to suggest that when the normal face to face communication is removed people can disclose more personal information about themselves. This can help when people are forging relationships online for example.
Some shy individuals might dread face to face encounters, and the internet gives them a sense of control: they can decide when or if to reply to someone’s message.”
“Intriguing… Perhaps Greg Hill is just really proud of his Gym but is too shy to tell anyone about it in real life… Maybe I can help him” I thought, scratching my meagre Fresher-beard.
“So how can I stop people writing mean things about my articles?” I cried, desperately.
She paused and probably wanted to say ‘stop being shit’, but these were her actual words:
“There is an old saying ‘Publish and be damned’: I think if people are going to publish they must accept that they will be criticised.
Maybe there is an element of the Disinhibition Effect when people are publishing articles online from the authors perspective?”
I learnt a lot from my Journey, and emerge a changed man. No longer will I bully the bench-loving people of this world, or draw cocks on famous Cambridge buildings. For trully, I see that The Tab can become a force for good.
Much as I have made a parody of this interview, I do not wish to parody Berni Good, for whom I have a lot of respect. If you’re interested in finding out more, go to her website, www.cyberpsychologist.co.uk