How the internet created an age of rage: A good post that examines why comment threads are such a disaster these days. There are lots of reasons, but I maintain that this is 90% of it.
The psychologists call it “deindividuation”. It’s what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. The classic deindividuation experiment concerned American children at Halloween. Trick-or-treaters were invited to take sweets left in the hall of a house on a table on which there was also a sum of money. When children arrived singly, and not wearing masks, only 8% of them stole any of the money. When they were in larger groups, with their identities concealed by fancy dress, that number rose to 80%. The combination of a faceless crowd and personal anonymity provoked individuals into breaking rules that under “normal” circumstances they would not have considered.
I’ve long-maintained that the average comment threads on a mainstream news article make me sad to be alive.
(Worth nothing too – the atheism subreddit went beyond the pale recently with comments on a post by a 15-year-old girl. I’ve been around the Net for a long time, but some of these are just unreal. These are things these people would never (1) say to this girl in-person, or (2) say if their identities were known. Deindividuation writ large.)