The following is the second comment by UMN student BZ (The first comment is here) which in turn is intended to invite your comment, on Anonymity & Behaivor Change.
B.Z. is researching the development and nature of communities on the internet, and this particular sub-project explores anonymous and pseudonymous blogging or commenting as well as other topics.
Anonymous interaction leads to no consequences. Because of this, people act differently than they would in face to face conversation.
Almost every forum or blog on the internet has someone acting like a jackass – are they really like that in person? Online you might for example, tell someone you disagree with over a political issue, or the correct distribution of Linux to use an idiot, using numerous colorful expletives. In person, you might keep silent during political arguments; passively agree with whatever distribution of linux is mentioned first.
Behavior change can go a lot further than acting more aggressive online than in person. People can be anyone they want to be – totally reinventing themselves. Males might pretend to be females. Custodial engineers might pretend to be marine biologists. Changing ones behavior online is a gateway to experiencing different reactions from individuals.
Are these virtual outings any less significant than our actions in the real world? Does calling someone an asshole online hurt their feelings any less than in person? Is developing an emotional bond with someone while playing online video game, such as a MMORPG any less significant?
The physicality is lacking. The knowledge of who you really are is lacking. These are the same reasons you can behave this way – your personal consequences are not immediate or even real, but what about those with whom you interact?
Have you ever misrepresented yourself for a particular purpose or behaved in a way online you wouldn’t dare express in “real life”?