Why Do We Accept Bad Behavior Online?

Spend a little time on the Internet and you'll run into one of two things happening in conversations: either people are being respectful and understanding, or they aren't. We spend so much time using text messages, email, and even message forums where our tone and meaning are lost. We've become a bit desensitized to the way we sound thanks to the Internet and other technological forms of communication, and sometimes we forget what the proper, polite rules are when it comes to speaking to someone directly.

The rules of communication on the Internet do not apply in polite face to face conversation. It's interesting to me some of the things we do online that (most) of us would never consider taking to the offline world. Our level of acceptance to some behaviors is increased or perhaps we just really like having access to that "ban IP" power. I've complied a little list of things that happen online that we would never accept in the offline world.

  • Writing in all caps is basically screaming. Would you walk up to a person and just go toe to toe with them and start screaming in their face? If your answer is anything other than 'no' then you're not emotionally equiped for face to face communication.
  • Pretending to be someone else is never acceptable in face to face communication. This is simply lying. It's one thing to be anonymous online but it's another to embrace a persona or a character and develop relationships along these lines. Eventually, you will have to fess up to the people that are in your community about who and what you really are, or someone will find out.
  • Asking a total stranger for a date (or worse) when you first meet them. Walking up to someone on the street and saying, "Hey, do you want a cup of coffee", will probably get you punched.
  • Call someone a name just because you can.
  • Starting arguments while using the name "anonymous". Imagine someone walking up to you on the street with their face covered in a Richard Nixon mask and trying to get you to talk politics or religion. I'd have a couple of knee jerk reactions, but none of them would be to share my thoughts on the upcoming election.
  • Using a repeat of you're stupid to validate yourself or your argument. Our conversation would not go far if we were face to face, so one has to wonder why we continue to "feed the troll" online.
  • Bring up a completely off topic and horrible offensive subject. Have you ever been standing in a group of friends and have a nice pleasent conversation when someone walks up and says something so horrible that it completely derails the entire vibe of the evening? No? Well, go spend an hour or two on a message board and you'll come across that eventually.
  • Stalk someone. The phrase "stalk" is thrown around on the Internet, but imagine for a moment if you followed your favorite celebrity around offline the way you did online. Twitter is their favorite coffee house, Facebook is their home, and I'm pretty sure at some point, you'd get reported to the police.
  • Threaten someone. Disagreeing with someone in the offline world happens, but it seems like sometimes online those interactions often end with a threat.

So my question is this - Why do we tolerate online what we wouldn't tolerate in face to face communication? Is it easier to turn a blind eye to people being rude, mean, or just downright creepy because we know that we can simply "delete" or "ignore" them online? I also want to know your "okay online but not face to face" rules.

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