Study Says People Who Are Jerks Online are Likely to Be Jerks Offline, Too

Friday, February 14, 2014 - 10:28 AM


A new paper from the University of Manitoba suggests something that sounds obvious but maybe isn't -- people who troll online are likely to self-report as being sadists in real life.

Here's why that's a little surprising. On OTM, we've talked a lot about the idea of "online disinhibition effect," which describes how people online feel free to behave in ways they might not in real life. It tracks with common sense -- if people are allowed to be anonymous, it's possible people will act out because there's no consequence to their real life reputation. 

Because people understand that idea on a basic level, they sometimes make the mistake of thinking that if they were to meet a troll in real life, that person would most likely turn out to be a nice person. They're not sadists, they're just internet sadists! But what the Manitoba paper suggests is that a shy jerk who becomes unshy when they're online is probably still a jerk.

The non-academic proof for this is the story of when comedian Chris Gethard tracked down a guy who'd left a bunch of nasty comments about him online. Gethard does a video interview with the guy, Travis, and Travis turns out to have the personality you'd expect after reading the Manitoba findings. 


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Comments [3]

Travis, don't buy your next hair piece at Big Lots.

Perhaps that will give you an idea how it feels to be flamed online.

I live in St. Louis too. My apologies for his behavior. Chris was very kind considering Travis' judgemental nature.

Feb. 16 2014 06:50 PM

Yes, sadly online Republicans also tend to be real life Republicans.

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Feb. 15 2014 02:57 AM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. You can subscribe to our podcast here. You can follow our blog here. We’re also on Twitter, and we play Team Fortress 2 more or less constantly, so find us there if you like to communicate via computer games from six years ago.

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