Acceptable Cyber Bullying: Why Are Anonymous Commenters So Vicious?

cyber bullying photo

What is up with all the cyber bullying these days? Can’t we all just get along?

As a blogger, I’ve been through it. Anonymous people heaping on the negativity as if what they say doesn’t hurt. Luckily, I write about health for the most part, so my writing is less polarizing and the comments are less dramatic. The majority of people are in fact delightful, but there are those shining few who leave a stain on your day. Are these anonymous comments an acceptable form of cyber bullying?

A Pew Research Study found that 25 percent of people admit to posting comments online anonymously and one researcher out of the University of Houston found that such anonymity contributes to less civil discourse.

I acquaint it to when you’re sitting in traffic and in a heat of road rage, you lay on the horn for the elderly women who just pulled out in front of you. You wouldn’t scream at a grandma if you were face to face, but somehow the anonymity of your car makes losing your temper acceptable. It’s similar online. In fact, one study found that 53 percent of comments were uncivil if newspapers allowed commenters anonymity. When newspapers required names or links to Facebook or other social networks, that number dropped to 29 percent.

“I think people are also much more inclined to comment about something if they have a complaint. Sometimes it’s the only way you feel that you can be heard, so it winds up feeling like online comment sections are filled with negativity,” said Shayla Thiel-Stern, a professor of new media and culture at the University of Minnesota on CBSLocal.

Negative comments generally come from a small group with a loud voice.

“I don’t think we’re getting meaner as a society,” Thiel-Stern said. “I think social media emphasizes some of that meanness.”

Anonymous comments tend to be angrier, according to another study, which found that frequent venting on the internet leads to subsequent increases in anger, rather than decreases. Those who frequently rant online are significantly more angry than the norm and those who read the rants are also less happy.

According to vlogger ZE Frank, it takes more potential energy to leave comments and as a result, those comments are often laced with polarizing opinion.

Have you ever left a vicious anonymous comment online? Would you?

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Image: FHKE