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Anonymity Makes People Rude--Editorial

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I've marveled so often at how being anonymous can cause rudeness; it's like a license to stop thinking and start being aggressive or passive aggressive.

The most apparent instance of this is in traffic. People in their cars suddenly lose all sense that the other cars actually have people in them too, and they will swerve and cut off and tailgate and pass willy-nilly, flipping the bird as they do, stopping and starting according to their own agendas, never caring about the fall out.

The internet has also given people a green light for rudeness. Comments become hostile, bullying on social networking sites can lead to suicide in younger folk, faking your image is as common on dating websites as women lying about their age used to be.

But how about the old value that says integrity is about what you do when you are alone, when no one is there to police you, when you are under cover, or anonymous? Are you angry enough that as soon as you feel no one will be on to you, you spew your venom by commenting randomly on websites? Or do you get behind the wheel and just put your foot on the gas and go? Can you maintain your composure and your respect for other people even when you're anonymous?

The "phony phone call" game of middle and high school is the beginning of this rush, this thrill of saying something jarring or nasty or rude without being caught or confronted or having any consequences. But the middle schooler who thinks they are going to be found out will run away faster than a woodland bunny!
The next time you feel yourself slipping into road rage or writing a nasty comment on the internet, or flipping someone off in traffic--ask yourself, if you were standing right in front of them, face to face, would you behave the same way?

Most of us would not. And for those of us that would, can you consider the cost of spreading another layer of hostility on an already difficult world?

Is it worth it?

Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER and really sick of rude anonymous folk.

Add a Comment1 Comments

We've all observed this phenomenon. But is it really anonymity that makes people rude? Or is it a lack of a feeling of connection to other drivers? They're not the same thing. It's possible to be anonymous and still feel connected to others. Anonymous giving and other random acts of kindness are examples of this.

I also think that, especially when looking at the actions of others, we tend to overestimate the influence of what we see as deep personality attributes, like integrity or rudeness. But an overwhelming majority of people will act with integrity in some circumstances and with rudeness in others.

For example, in cars, people tend to act more rude when they're stressed, as when they're tired, late, or caught in a traffic jam. And on internet discussion beards, they're more likely to act rude when they have been made the target of a personal attack or insult -- which explains the escalation you see on many internet forums. I think a sense of connectedness to other people and caring (both giving and receiving loving feelings) helps mitigate these things. One of the problems on the internet, in my opinion, is NOT anonymity per se, but rather, is the fact that people often feel lonely or isolated when they're spending hours posting on internet forums. Internet socializing doesn't give the same sort of warmth that you get from in-person contact, the eye contact, body language, physical touch even...those things help people to stay connected. I think this, and not so much the anonymity itself, is the real reason why people tend to act more rudely both on internet forums and in traffic jams.

March 28, 2011 - 10:46am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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