Once upon a time, it was necessary to confront face-to-face the targeted
person. At least it was needed that you expose yourself. Today, thanks to
blogs, forums, and online platforms, as well as social media, spreading
hatred seems to be more and more a national popular sport in all countries.
The victims are always the same, nothing new in respect to the past.
According to the graphs drawn up by Vox in collaboration with La Sapienza
University of Rome,
the main targets of web hatred are women, victims of 63% of the
negative tweets analyzed,
followed by homosexuals 10.8%, by migrants 10%, and then disabled (6.4%)
and Jewish people (2.2%).
The Haters, on the other hand, are ever less the “typical bully” in
appearance, but are meaner than ever before. They create fake profiles,
expelling their anger by mocking and offending but only from behind a
screen. Modern bullies live in digital isolation, far from real group
dynamics and their lifeblood is given by likes and shares. Increasingly
impelled, they no longer use their hands and physical violence; they use
harsh words, sharp comments and find strength in their supporters. They
feel they are really somebody in that world made of bits and bytes, but
often lead a life in captivity.
They are misfits, often unemployed, who have to occupy their time and
waste it online.
Usually men, they live on the edges of small local areas and have a low
level of schooling. This data comes from surveys that focus in on the net
and analyze millions of tweets and posts in circulation, in all European
and non-European countries.
Whatever country you go, haters you find: effect of no inhibition on
Factors such as anonymity, invisibility and no real-time communication
bring out the worst in people, psychologists call
this phenomenon the effect of lack of inhibition on the web
. A guaranteed “effect” of mediation through new technologies, which allows
ignoring social rules and inhibitions that instead are present in a
That in in itself is not always negative. The phenomenon, in fact, can also
have positive effects, so it is good to make a distinction between benign
and malignant lack of inhibition.
The effect of benign lack of inhibition: in front of a
screen it is possible to be oneself. For timid or those who do not have
good self-esteem, technology allows one to let go and communicate in an
open, sincere way, even on very personal matters. The greater ease in
communicating one’s feelings and emotions seems to be a cure-all.
The effect of a toxic lack of inhibition: the other side
of lack of inhibition is represented by the greater tendency to act in an
unpleasant or socially sanctioned manner, by putting forth aggressive,
sexually explicit or generally unconventional behaviors.
Today the net is filled with people who have turned the web into a den of
hostility and violence; a Hatred Consortium, typical of the clans that are
united against a common enemy. And if it is true that online attacks often
fade within hours or days, it is equally true that the net does not forget
and its echo can take on the contours of a persecution that can lead to
dramatic conclusions such as the victim’s own suicide. Unfortunately, the
news tell more and more often of degenerate incidents that have
brought an end to a life of a young adolescent. Already heightened because
they are the most vulnerable: awaiting recognition by society and suffering
the exclusion and the judgment of the others. The web is mean, much more
than some peers, and many have not been able to give the right weight to
those waves of shitstorms.
John Suler: the effect of online lack of inhibition
John Suler, Professor of Psychology at Rider University described very well
in his famous article in 2004 and later in his Psychology Of The Digital Age: Humans Become Electric (Cambridge
University Press 2015), the online behavior of people, and identified the
six principle factors that facilitate the breaking down of psychological
barriers and the increase of uninhibited behavior in the virtual world,
with its positive and negative effects.
You don’t know who I am (dissociate anonymity)
Online you have the feeling that you can do anything because things said or
done online cannot be directly connected to the rest of your life. A sort
of dissociation that allows you to justify any action, of which the
consequences are not taken into consideration. Both for good and for bad.
You can’t see me (invisibility)
The impossibility of seeing the commenters face-to-face causes a lowering
of inhibition thresholds. The absence of all the elements of non-verbal
communication (facial expression, posture and tone of voice) makes the
counterpart not real, so we must not strive to modify behavior on the basis
of the reactions we observe.
See you later (lack of synchronicity)
The lack of synchronicity of communications allows, on the one hand, the
possibility of expressing one’s own opinion without necessarily having to
listen to the response of one’s debaters, sometimes increasing the tendency
to criticize and let off steam in an aggressive manner. On the other hand,
having the possibility of postponing your response allows you to reflect
more carefully, avoiding acting on one’s initial impulse, an excellent
opportunity especially for those people who have more difficulty in
expressing themselves effectively. Also, in this case, it is necessary to
observe how behavior can be improved or worsened based on the subject.
It’s all in my head (solipsistic introjection)
Solipsist Introjection: People tend to interpret ambiguous messages based
on their own hopes or fears. So it could be that a joke is interpreted as
an insult, or on the contrary a mild interest seen as a sign of listening
It’s just a game (dissociative imagination)
The dissociative imagination allows us to justify any action because we
mistakenly think that everything that happens online remains online, and
that the consequences do not have an effect on everyday life.
We are equal (minimize authority)
The web has also modified the possibility of identifying social status in
the traditional manner, thus bringing back class differences to known
elements to which people had become accustomed to such as wealth, belonging
to a social class or country of origin, etc. In online world, on the other
hand, there is a change in the factors that determine social status. On the
Internet the ability to communicate or those techniques that allow the full
utilization of technological tools are more relevant.
The professor concludes that such changes in online thinking and attitudes
– and the effect of lack of inhibition weakened in various facets – will
then interact with personality variables, in some cases bringing about a
small deviation in the basic behavior of the person (offline), while in
other cases will cause dramatic changes. In short, online life continues to
change the relationships between people, both online and offline and the
effects are becoming ever more tangible.
Law enforcement is needed
That of hate speech, or the spiral of insults that self-feed and infest
from within on the Internet, has become an ungovernable phenomenon. We
really need precise ad hoc legislation that allows the definition
of today’s crimes that are rampant and often go unpunished, to defend our
children and to protect the youth.
Putting and end to the efforts of haters and trolls or the existence of
victims of shitstorms and cyberbullying is easier than it may seem. We are
sacrificing the Internet and its potential to the culture of hate,
scattering it about everywhere. The web has changed and as Time
magazine also underlines, even its “personality has changed: first it was
“geeky” and spread its infinite flow of information, today if you talk
about fighting with depression it will only try to push you to suicide.”
Unfortunately, one aspect often underestimated is that these dynamics involve not only the youth but also adults,
especially those belonging to groups. And here we are witnessing the
struggle between members of different groups such as vegans vs. carnivores,
beautiful vs. ugly, fans vs. non-fans.
The Theory of Social Identity conceptualized the group as the place of
origin of social identity. In man, the spontaneous tendency to form groups,
to feel a part of them and to distinguish one’s belonging to a group
(in-group) from those of non-belonging (out-group), triggers a mechanism of
favoritism for one’s group (and the inverse for out-groups).
The real problem, today, is that thanks to the new models of interaction
that is non-physical and direct, but mediated by technology, this last
bulwark also springs up and seems to assist more and more groups that feed
the hatred against the out-group. This could also seem “natural,” but even
regarding the behaviors in one’s own groups at times, disagreement could be
found within itself.
A fight between everyone versus everyone, where not even the theories of
the “herd” seem to be the master, a battle which rather takes the features
of twisted, and unbridled individualism without rules. That seems to be the
new “rule” for future generations.