Real life versus online behaviors


  • Admin

    This came up on a different thread and I'd much rather discuss it than beat on that dead horse any more, so... :)

    Do you think there is a correlation between online and offline behavior? Are jerks online necessarily the same in real life, or at least are they considerably more likely to be the same there? What about the opposite, if someone is a great person online does it suggest they are probably the same in person?


    My anecdotal submission to this thread is one of my old roommates from the university days. He's happily married, he's a solid professional, I would (and have) trusted him with money and never had a single issue... he's built an extensive real life social network of board games that's ran regularly and fairly, he owns Facebook groups where amateurs trade and buy/sell games where he's gone well out of his way to make sure no one gets scammed... basically I don't have any bad marks against the guy, and I've known him for a very, very long time.

    Online he's an asshole! He trolled the shit out of another guild on WoW trying to incite a PvP war with them for the lols, and on one notable episode on Arctic MUSH back in the day he and another guy lured someone to a basement promising him rare loot, closed and locked the door, and PKed him. He trolls with wild abandon every chance he gets because to him online just... isn't real, it doesn't have real consequences I guess? He just separates it completely, and treats what happens there as he wants for his own amusement.


    I have other friends who aren't as good examples of this, but that's the one I wanted to bring up since it's relevant. On the other hand I won't pretend there are people I've 'met' only online who just... let's say I wouldn't make a bet aren't assholes iRL as well. I certainly wouldn't risk them having any ability to damage my life, even if they barely know me, just because they can.

    What do you think?


  • Pitcrew

    I think people can and do behave super differently online vs in-person. Maybe they, like your friend, just don't think of online as "real." Maybe they just like the freedom that the internet affords them from consequences for being an asshole.

    But I do think that treating online as if it's a free-for-all where you don't need to worry about your behavior is, in and of itself, asshole behavior.



  • There are a lot of studies that you can probably google that discusses these kinds of things. My take on it is that on the internet it is far easier to find a group of people who not only share the same kind of mentality but also support it - and because you can find these groups of people a person is not left feeling alone in expressing those impulses.

    I think it goes back really to a form of internet culture tribalism - which the internet makes readily available. A person can find their tribe and then through the internet they are able to express the culture that tribe gives them. Then you have places that encourage or at least provide support systems for the kinds of internet tribalism that encourage negative behavior - like trolling. There are no consequences for the negative behavior inside the virtual environment and anonymity means it is easier to engage in negative behavior because, in many cases, there is no risk of disclosure of one's true identity.


  • Pitcrew

    @Arkandel

    Obviously the precise correlation of certain behaviors is going to vary a huge, huge amount. Some people are trolls online just to be trolls, or because the anonymity encourages the behavior. But the other side of your coin, and I brought this up in another thread, is the scary and very uncomfortable truth that: there are actual rapists in our hobby. Statistically, there just are.

    One set of antisocial behavior might genuinely be '4 teh lulz' but another might be the person's actual lack of respect for other human beings showing through.

    So in the case that (presumably) encouraged this post? Yeah, I'd be equally or even more cautious of a person who acts like this online in an RL context. Because "other peoples opinions don't matter" is a really red-flag kind of mindset, as is going 0-60 with "the ladiez are always complainin about the rape!" Same thing with all the infamous stalker/creeper/etc models. There are some cases that get discussed here that to me, have every hallmark of RL predatory behavior (from the control tactics and gaslighting to repeat targeting of prior victims, etc). I have trouble thinking that's a coincidence.



  • I separate it into two different categories. If someone is really out of step with how seriously everyone else takes a game or event or something, and also would not feel bad if his or her own behavior was inflicted on them in turn because they don't take it seriously, I don't see that as a big deal. It's just being step and maybe a bad fit, but they would be okay with someone paying them in kind. This is like the playful shit talk people give one another, when they are fine with people bantering right back at them. That I don't judge that harshly.

    But if someone would really NOT be okay with their own behavior being given back to them, and is using the anonymity of the internet to act terribly with no consequences, yeah... don't trust that person. That's who they really are imo.


  • Pitcrew

    @apos That's a pretty good delimitation.


  • Coder

    As @Jaded mentioned, this issue has been studied. Just google and you'll find tons of results. My personal non-scientific summation of the consensus is that yes, people often act much differently online than iRL, and in many cases worse due to the anonymity, the lack of personal connection with the targets, the lack of real consequences, etc.

    That said, I agree with @Roz: You can't be "a good person" and also be a jerk to people online. Online people are people too, so if you're a jerk to them then you're a jerk, period.


  • Pitcrew

    My take is that if someone is willfully mean online they always had that behaviour in them. The safety of being behind a monitor just allows them to release the beast. People say and do things ("I want to hold you down and fuck you like a piece of meat." Sending dick pics.) that they would NEVER, EVER say or do to my face.

    Cue the part of my day where a guy walks over with his dick out. I will definitely keep you all posted on that front.


  • Pitcrew

    I think most people are pretty close in behavior between their online selves and offline selves, although the different venues allow different expressions of that behavior, and online behavior has a tendency to become more exaggerated and hyperbolic. Some people have entirely different online and offline personas, but my suspicion is that it takes work and intentionality to really do that, and so most people don't.


  • Pitcrew

    I think that if someone is a jerk in real life, they are almost certain to be a jerk online, but if someone is a jerk online, there is only a slightly higher chance that they are a jerk in real life than if they aren't a jerk online.

    I agree with @Roz in particular that not treating online interactions as "real" is a warning sign, but I also think that in some cases it's the result of just not thinking things through rather than a conscious choice to treat other people as lesser because you can't see them. That being said, in most cases, I think it's just treating people as lesser because you can't see them.

    Also: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GIFT


  • Admin

    My policy in general is to try and not think of what someone might be like in real life at all. I mean... unless I'm going to be meeting them (and I won't) it just doesn't matter. What I perceive online is, for all intents and purposes, that person.

    Take the guy we re-banned this week. Do I know he's not trolling us for the lols? That he's actually a racist? Of course not, for all I know he's a nice person iRL.

    But on the other hand would I want to meet someone who creates accounts called AuspiceForAuschwitz? Probably not, even if it's supposed to be funny or something, you know?



  • It depends. (Take a drink, y'all.)

    The old quote, "Character is what you do in the dark," comes to mind here, and I think there's great truth in it.

    If you can't behave with ethics and common decency when your real identity isn't attached to your behavior, you don't really have ethics or common decency. You just have a fear of being identified and/or thought of as someone who doesn't have ethics and common decency, and fear prevents your true colors from wholly shining through.


  • Pitcrew

    Honestly i don't give a fuck if someone's online behavior matches their RL. If I'm only ever going to deal with them online, and they are gross or annoying, then they are gross or annoying.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Real life versus online behaviors:

    My policy in general is to try and not think of what someone might be like in real life at all. I mean... unless I'm going to be meeting them (and I won't) it just doesn't matter. What I perceive online is, for all intents and purposes, that person.

    Yeah, I mean, what else are you gonna do? It doesn't matter what a person is like IRL if they're being a jerk in your online community.

    @seraphim73 said in Real life versus online behaviors:

    I agree with @Roz in particular that not treating online interactions as "real" is a warning sign, but I also think that in some cases it's the result of just not thinking things through rather than a conscious choice to treat other people as lesser because you can't see them. That being said, in most cases, I think it's just treating people as lesser because you can't see them.

    Yeah, I mean, there is a wide scale here. Someone can be doing stuff just because they're thoughtless about it, and that's still jerk behavior, even if it's not intentionally being a jerk. But people like that who aren't really trying to be jerks should be able to shape up or ship out of an online community if told that behavior isn't welcome. I can call someone a jerk who is doing jerky things even if they're not intending on being malicious. But I will think of people with malicious intent as serious mega-jerks. This is a scientific scale.


  • TV & Movies

    I've met various MU people online and generally, things do trend more toward 'the real life people are way cooler/nicer than I ever imagined.' People I've thought were dull, annoying, or big fat cheater jerks turned out to be interesting, fun, charming, etc. Of course some of them go right back to being cheater jerks on game, and a small percentage weren't great RL.

    On really negative behaviors being warning signs for RL, I really only have one or two data points for this in direct or nearly direct experience. But it can be a thing. Knew of a guy with quite the rep for shady gross stuff... who was also definitely grooming people for RL meetups under very dubious circumstances (on a game infamous for NOT having an 18+ requirement).

    So mostly people are cool, but uh, a few are definitely not and it does tend to correlate to their online behavior. Unfortunately that doesn't have much predictive use.


  • Pitcrew Banned

    @arkandel said in Real life versus online behaviors:

    Take the guy we re-banned this week. Do I know he's not trolling us for the lols? That he's actually a racist? Of course not, for all I know he's a nice person iRL.

    http://wwora.freeforums.net/

    Now you know (and knowing is half the battle)!


  • Pitcrew

    I tend to see how people behave on the internet to be how they behave when there are little to know real consequences for their actions, so if anything i would give it greater weight to them being their true selves than I would their RL interactions, after all I am a large man, and when I was in college and working retail I was a large man in pretty good shape. I couldn't begin to count the number of times a co-worker was being treated like absolute shit by a customer who then turned the attitude down about 10 notches when I walked over to loom over them. Did they suddenly become good people no they just had a potential added consequence so modified behavior.


  • Pitcrew

    People are trash.

    alt text


  • Admin

    @nemesis said in Real life versus online behaviors:

    Now you know (and knowing is half the battle)!

    What do I know now?


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Real life versus online behaviors:

    @nemesis said in Real life versus online behaviors:

    Now you know (and knowing is half the battle)!

    What do I know now?

    That people are trash! I literally just posted it! Ahhhh!!!! What is life?!