Online Disinhibition Effect

Photo of 2 guys with masks on while using the internet

Online disinhibition is defined as the lack of restraint one feels while online in comparison to the control people feel during a face to face interaction.  Being anonymous, lacking empathy, and having no guardrails online creates the effect, and the effects can be devastating.

Just Like Intoxication

Online disinhibition mimics the effects of being intoxicated.  The sensors we all have in our brains that help us make wise choices are impeded by using drugs and alcohol.  When someone is intoxicated, they can say things they normally wouldn't, make poor decisions, and even make choices that alter their lives forever. 

The same effect intoxication produces can occur while online.  Think about it, have you ever responded cold to an email?  Looked up an ex-girlfriend without your wife's knowledge?  Looked at an inappropriate picture?  Made a spontanius purchase while looking around online?

The odds of you sending cold emails, walking up to an ex-girlfriend while with your wife and asking about her, grabbing a playboy at the gas station, and buying something pointless are minimal.  Especially if you are reading this BLOG.  The reason these things took place while sitting at a computer is the online disinhibition effect.  People can make very poor choices while sitting at a computer.  Choices we would never make in public view.

There are no Guardrails Online

The reason we make these poor choices are there are no guardrails on the internet.  Odds are my wife will never know if I look up an ex-girlfriend or view pornographic images.  So I can get away with it, right?

One of the things I love about my wife and family is they provide me with structure.  They provide me with the framework to make good choices and decisions.  So anythign I do in public has the risk of it getting back to them!  This is important to understand.  Because when we go online, that guardrail can disappear, or so we think.

Everything we do on the internet can be seen by someone.  Google tracks your searches.  Facebook can leak any of your private information.  Passwords can be broken into.  

Nothing is private, nothing.  Even if the site tells you it is, it isn't.  Look at Ashley Madison, a website whose sole purpose was to coordinate sexual affairs.  When their data leaked all of their users were exposed and many marriages ended.  They told their clients they were safe, but they were no more safer than any other site.  And all sites and companies can be hacked.

Now to the Kids

This is where it gets even worse.  When a kid goes online, they are already prewired to make bad decisions.  They are kids, they do stupid things every day.  When they go online, they can get into some real trouble.  So many news articles and parents of victims wonder how their child would have made such poor decisions.  This is how.  Their brains were not performing as they should.

This is how girls share inappropriate pictures of themselves, meet someone they have only chatted with, and get involved with drugs.

On the internet, everything is acceptable.  If you look around someone will be there to help you live out any desires you may have.  They will also be there to encourage bad decisions.

Next time you see your child on the internet, think about it through this lens and imagine what bad decisions would be made if your child was intoxicated.