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Why Do We Do and Say Dumb Things Online?

BBC has an interesting article about a 16 year old who is pleading guilty to hacking into Apple’s network. This kid “boasted about his activities” and broke into their network because “he was a huge fan and dreamed of working there.”

There is something that happens when you’re behind a computer (it’s called The Online Disinhibition Effect) where do and say things you’d never do in person. Would this kid really break a lock on Apple HQ building to get in? I doubt it. Would he physically steal cash from one of their retail stores? Probably not. But that’s just what he did.

The same thing happens to us in chat rooms or via email. People will curse and humiliate total strangers, when they would never dream of doing that at your local coffee shop. We assume we are anonymous. We pretend the other person isn’t just like us.

The next time you’re online, remember the person staring at the other end of your communication. That person is someone’s son or daughter. That person is probably just like you. Oh, and if you didn’t read the BBC article… you aren’t anonymous… we can find you.