When people use the Internet they are often quite willing to do or say things that they would be not really do or say in the "real world." This has been termed "disinhibition" which simply means a lack of inhibition. Inhibitions are those things that keep us from doing certain things – like being embarrassed. But when on the Internet, people can mask who they are and can pretend to be someone they are not.
There are four specific items to be aware of when communicating (email, chat, facebook, etc.) online:
- Using the Internet to communicate gives the appearance that we are invisible or anonymous.
- We cannot see or use body language or facial expressions on the Internet, so interpretations of text may be incorrect.
- People on the Internet tend to go to the same groups and “hang-around” the same people. The rules for these “groups” are very different and what is okay with one group may not be okay with another. There are social rules for groups and understanding them is difficult.
- People can have multiple identities on the Internet, each of which will act differently and have different attributes (male v. female, young v. old, etc.) so you really never know who you are really communicating with online.