New evidence suggests people aren't nearly as dickish on the Internet as you might think

A new study, published in the journal Nature, provides evidence that the way people communicate with each other doesn't change very much between offline and different kinds of online situations, including chat rooms—even if the people are chatting anonymously. The catch: This only holds true in places where the same people are coming back to chat over and over. (Via Colin Schultz)


  1. I am a bit confused, it seems on the surface that this article is talking about a persistence between online and offline communication despite anonymity i.e. civility doesn’t go out the window as soon as responsibility is gone, and people are consistent in their expression online and offline. This would imply that the dicks we do encounter on the web (that aren’t outright trolls) are in fact statistically just as dickish in real life. However I don’t get along with statistics and couldn’t parse the information very well, so I apologize in advance to those I just made cringe.

    Maybe I need my eyes checked though. Can anyone clear this up a bit?

    1.  Edit: Woops, I did completely misread that. I saw “People on the internet are not actually as dickish as you might think.” Heh, not sure how I pulled that off.

      1. Times change man. Gotta keep up or you get left behind. Stupid-assed motherfuckers is the new fucktard asshat.

  2. People returning over and over means there is expectation of future interaction. And this was done with IRC channels, which are not anonymous but (by cultural practice) “pseudonymous.” It is well established that repeated interaction with an identity that gradually acquires social standing leads to a virtuous cycle in terms of behavior.

    Social breakdown occurs when there’s no expectation of future interaction; or no investment in the social standing of the pseudonym.

    Any community moderator could have told you the above. :)

    1.  I think there is a claim that barter showed up once communities started growing beyond our ability to keep track of how we interacted over time. Once communities became so large that we may forget who someone was between each instance of interacting (give or take about 100 people), we needed a way to do exchanges that did not involve me handing you something today and you handing me something some days. months or perhaps even years down the road. So instead we would haggle and argue over what you offered compared to what i offered, and in the end either go our separate ways or agree to complete the exchange.

  3. Posting comments is so fraught with nuance that gets lost in translation.  I want to change my username to, “remember Chris, these people don’t know you so please try to be hyper aware of what you post and go forth with blatant kindness rather than meta-snark”, or better yet, “I’m sorry”.

  4. No one EVER prejudges me or my posts before they read them…
    *stares at the avatar*
    People expect me to say all sorts of things, and often are surprised if they actually read what I end up writing.
    But the things I say online pretty much match what I will say in reality to people I will see again.

  5. Regarding dickish public behavior I believe in the 5% rule: 95% of the nastiness is 5% of the people.  But like the spoiled apple in the barrel it really stands out.  The same rule applies to other semiprivate public behavior like driving.  One inconsiderate fool in the daily commute can easily lead you to say that people drive like idiots.  You never notice the drivers who follow the rules and are polite but the jerk who cuts you off unnecessarily has all of your attention.

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