I've been always wondering why the discussions on the Internet are so much different from the ones in the offline world. It just amazing how easily people waive goodbye to the decorum as soon as they get at their keyboards: having logged in onto another web-forum, discussion platform or, most often, social networking site, they seem to transform into big Hulk-like creatures, wreaking destruction around themselves. No matter, what a discussion on the Internet begins with, the odds are it will end up with the sh*t-rays, irradiated by the interlocutors at each other. A forty-year-old paterfamilias with a doctoral degree can rapturously call a forty-year-old socialite with dozens of publications in the literary almanac an a*shole and get an invitation to commit a sexual intercourse with himself in response.
But what is the reason for such unconstructive behavior while on the Web? This question used to give me no rest till I pondered to ask it my girlfriend who is graduating in psychology. She took this 'oh-those-laypeople' air, sighed, and said, 'You know, the communication on the Web is not similar to that in the real life because it is essentially anonymous. On the Internets, you get rid of your identity, sloughing it like a snake's skin. You're not you anymore. And that's very inviting, you know'.
'Does it mean that people are basically pigs who only observe the decencies just because otherwise they get punished? Does that mean that people are intrinsically evil?'
'Not quite so'.
'What's their problem, then?'
Another 'oh-those-laypeople' sigh.
'Lemme think it over… Well, maybe, it's all about regression. I mean, you know, you run out of the rational arguments and start behaving like a kid: 'You're wrong because you're an idiot'. Another possible reason could be that Shadow archetype. You know, that evil guy inside of each and every of us that makes us do and say bad things protesting against the structures and modes of behaviour, imposed on you by the society, youe Super-Ego or whatnot. This description is a bit vague and inaccurate but gives you the picture somehow'.
The big problem about the regression and Shadow archetype is that Internet seems to be an enabling environment for their destructive tendencies because people tend to get a false impression of anonymity on the Web. Today the Web isn't anonymous anymore; not only do the social networks request your real personal data: figuring out who you really are, in case it is needed, will be no problem at all. In the early Web days, the Internet could be regarded as something separate from the real world and our everyday life. Nowadays the Internet is increasingly part and parcel of the real life, is the real life itself.
And here a questions arises: if the Internet ceases being an outsourcing place for the real life, does it imply that the communicative standards, common on the Web, will spread out to all areas of life? Will people in forty years talk to each other as if they were on some forum? That is the question.