6 Reasons Why People Are Jerks On The Internet

By Casey Danton

Welcome to the internet.

We've got tons of cat videos, memes, and oh, rude people too.

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Trolls, scammers, spammers, or just plain jerks, however you choose to describe them, you've come into contact with at least one in your online lifetime-- and it’s the worst.  What makes people behave brashly online? Why do they say things they would never say or do in any face-to-face confrontation? And, most important for brands, how should you respond to them if they ever visit your social media platforms?

Being a jerk online now has a name: the "online disinhibition effect." Doctors have actually been studying the psychology behind this behavior. There are six factors that contribute to being a jerk on the internet:

1. Dissociative Anonymity

This is the “you don’t know me” aspect of online rudeness.  Online users divulge what they want.  If you choose, you can remain completely anonymous or create your own carefully crafted fake persona. Catfish, anyone? Actions can be removed from an identity. If you could steal from a bank and you knew no one could identify you, would you?  Our identity helps keep our actions in check because we must be responsible for those actions afterward. Typically online, the worst punishment you may face is a deactivated profile, not enough to deter most people.

2. Invisibility

This is the “you can’t see me” aspect of trolls.  Yeah, I know you've stalked your ex’s profile page recently.  We’ve all done some creeping at one point or another.  You can find out new information without letting the individual know you're there.  The opportunity to be physically invisible helps separate the mental connection between users.

3. Asynchronicity

This is the “see you later” of online conversing.  When online, people don’t interact in real time.  A conversation could take minutes, hours, day or even months in the online sphere.  This can sometimes be like an emotional hit and run.  When users can leave a comment and then leave the conversation there is less of an emotional tie to what was said allowing harsher language and less barriers.

4. Olipsistic Introjection

This is where imagination comes in.  As social creatures, we crave bonding with similar beings.  Online much of that physical bonding relationship--everything from body language to eye contact--is gone.  Olipsistic introjection is the imaginary voice, tone, meaning, or physical image we apply to others in an online setting even though we have no idea what this person might look like.  Because these factors are made up, it is easier to believe that the entire interaction is fake or falsified further removing civilized behavior from the conversation.

5. Dissociative Imagination

Dissociative imagination is different from olipsistic introjection in that we can perceive online interactions as fiction and value real life interactions as non-fiction.  This allows users to view the internet as just a game as opposed to a real setting.  Instead of the person being fictional or unreal, the entire setting becomes fantasy.

6. Minimizing Authority

Online interactions limit what we know about individual users.  You could be talking to a kid sitting in a school computer lab or the CEO of a major company and have no idea. People are reluctant to speak without a filter when there is an authority figure present and more likely to speak out where there is little policing.  Anonymity brings everyone onto a level playing ground but, when combined with lack of authority, can make a break for hassling relatively quickly.

So what does this mean for brands?

At some point or another you will have to deal with rude people who aren’t afraid to share their feelings and may even exaggerate their emotions because of online disinhibition effect. It is just the nature of the beast.  You may be dealing with  a fully grown troll who is just commenting to get the best of you, someone with a bad attitude or someone who has a legitimate complaint.  Research by Euro RSCG Worldwide discovered that one in every five people are likely to lash out at brands online.

Negative comments may sometimes feel aggressive and it may seem like the easiest thing to do is hit the delete button.  But deleting or hiding a negative comment will hurt more than help.  Often, deleting can be viewed unfavorably and may create more of a problem than you started with. In most cases, users will be pleased that their complaints or criticism is being heard, recognized, and responded to.  Handling a valid complaint quickly and smoothly can even turn customers into brand advocates.  Other users and fans have access to these conversations between business and customer and will be watching to see what is done to correct a negative experience.  According to research by Convergys Corp, a negative customer review on YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook can cost a company up to 30 customers.  Be there to address these complaints and concerns--and keep customers coming back.

SEE ALSO: Don't Make This Community Management Mistake

There is a difference between negative feedback and trolling. When the trolls come out it is important not to engage.  Trolling is defined as: “a deliberately provocative posting to an online community with the aim of inciting an angry response.” These comments will be easy to pick out because they aren't adding anything to the brand or the conversation about the brand.  For these comments, the best course of action is to hide them.  This will allow the user and their friends to see what is posted but will stop anyone else from viewing it.

Of course, online interaction doesn't always have to be negative or nearly as scary it's been made out to be. These six factors also allows some users to share touching personal information about themselves, display unusual acts of generosity or kindness, and go out of their way to help others.  This recent video by Dermablend shows Cheri Lindsay removing her makeup to display her vitiligo.

1:Face Watch started raising crowd funding money to sell their trendy reflective watches with each color donating money towards different charities on Indigogo and now runs a successful online store.

As the saying goes, there will always be a few bad apples.  Don't worry, a few bad apples won't spoil the bunch.

BONUS: 3 Reasons To Stop Fearing Negative Brand Feedback

What are your tips for dealing with negative feedback on social media? Share your thoughts in the comments!