Online commenting, difference in behavior in real life and on the Internet


‘I just came here to read the comments’ is a commonly known phrase nowadays on the Internet. Everywhere you go on the Internet, from Facebook to your local sports forum, you can enjoy the comments and discussion of complete strangers about politics, celebrities or just a picture of a cat. What are the up and downsides of commenting anonymously on the Internet and why do we react differently on the internet than in real life? If you want to know more, just continue reading.

Almost 25% of all comments on the Internet are posted in anonymity. Santana found out that in newspapers, anonymity increases the chance of offensive commenting (Santana, 2013). This observation can be supported by real life experience. As most of you can relate, the Internet is not always a place to find comfort and understanding. Although the Internet can be a hostile place, many people find comfort on the World Wide Web. Anonimity has also been shown to encourage participation; by promoting a greater sense of community, users don’t have to worry about standing out individually. In a study that examined student learning, the psychologists Ina Blau and Avner Caspi found that, while face-to-face interactions tended to provide greater satisfaction, in anonymous settings participation and risk-taking flourished (Blau & Caspi, 2009)

The tendency to react more emotional when being anonymous is called the online dishibition effect (Suller, 2004). The online disinhibition effect is a loosening of social constraints and inhibitions that would be present in normal face-to-face interaction during interactions with others on the Internet. Suller found six primary factors behind why people act differently on the Internet from the way they do in normal face-to-face situations:

  1. You don’t know me: People on the Internet usually have no clue of who you are. This can give a sense of protection and an outlet for the antisocial.
  2. You can’t see me: without facial expression, many social cues go unnoticed. It also gives people the power to create a different, visually better, version of them. This can empower an individual.
  3. See you later: reactions on message boards are not always real-time. It can take days or weeks for people to react, which can encourage people to give their opinion on the Internet.
  4. It’s all in my head: When missing social cues via the Internet, people can attribute certain characteristics to individuals that aren’t true. It allows individuals to fantasize and create certain character traits.
  5. It’s all a game: People underestimate the effect of comments have on the Internet. They don’t see the social implications and have the courage to comment more aggressively.
  6. No place for status: When on the Internet, you can be whoever you want to be. Nobody knows if you are a professional football player or a cashier at the local grocery.

Now you all have some more insight in the factors and effects of online commenting I hope you all try to be somewhat more sensitive with your comments. Let’s start with some positive ones on my blog 😉



Blau, I. and caspi, A. (2009). STUDYING INVISIBLY: MEDIA NATURALNESS AND LEARNING. department of eduction and psychology.

Santana, A. (2013). Virtuous or Vitriolic. Journalism Practice, 8(1), pp.18-33.

Suller, J. (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(3), pp.321-326.




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