Posting Comments? You Got Problems, Son
Do flame warriors talk like that in real life? Probably not. We’ve all heard for years that the anonymity of the Internet gives people free reign to behave in ways they never would around flesh-and-blood people. A psychologist (and former science journalist) named Daniel Goleman says it’s because our brain doesn’t function properly when we chat with others online:
Q: The Internet has made communication so easy, but you suggest that such electronic discourse may have a real downside. You mention that the social brain (described in the book as a set of "neural networks that synchronize around relating to others") is active in a human contact, but that it isn't active online. Can you explain what's happening here?Does this theory completely fall apart when you look at the millions and millions of people who manage to go online without their social brains conking out and turning them into jerks, or is it just me? Here's a radical theory: maybe certain people don't bother making the effort of self-control when they can hide behind an anonymous identity instead.
A: It's been noted since the first days of the Internet that it allows a person to say something they would never say were they face-to-face. The social brain refers to the very extensive circuitry active in some way during a social interaction. The social brain doesn't just take in what the other person is doing. It tells us what to do next to keep things operating on track. If we're upset or agitated and we're with the person, we might say something artfully because our social brain is telling us how to do it. But without it online, it lets us do whatever we want — and sometimes with unfortunate consequences.