Anyone who has spent any time dating online knows people aren't exactly on their best behavior. While explicit and rude messages are sent willy-nilly online, however, it's much rarer to encounter such crassness in real life. Why?
In a 2013 interview withWired, Internet psychologist Graham Jones described one of the reasons that some people are inclined to behave in ways online they might never otherwise engage in during face-to-face encounters: "In the real world," Jones said, "people subconsciously monitor the behavior of others around them and adapt their own behavior accordingly [...] Online we do not have such feedback mechanisms."
In other words, without physical social cues and context, some people just don't know how to interact.
Aberrant online behavior is so abundant that psychologist John Suler developed a term to describe it: the online disinhibition effect.
In a paper he published on the subject, Suler observed that "online, some people self-disclose or act out more frequently or intensely than they would in person" and ascribed six factors — "dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority" — that influenced the effect.
Suler's theory not only does much to shed a light on trolling, it also may partially explain why people write rude, overly personal, and bizarre messages to complete strangers on dating apps and websites.
Like this one, which goes from 0 to "marrying" way too quickly.
Or this insipid awfulness, which was well-handled by the recipient.
Are awkward messages an international language? The answer, sadly, is yes.
Inappropriate online behavior transcends boundaries and borders. People of all lands with access to the Internet can attest to the fact that when it comes to civilized behavior online, huge swaths of people have a long way to evolve before they can really be trusted to press "send" and that creepiness is a language that everyone understands. It's a little reassuring to know that people around the world are as creeped out as you are.
This video from our friends at Dating Beyond Borders gives us a glimpse of that. It shows the reactions that men and women from all around the world have to various messages — all real — sent via private message on various dating apps and websites. Some are mundane. Others read more like cover letters. But almost none of them have the intended effect: to attract the positive attention of another person.
Granted there might be reasons people behave more creepy online than they would in real life, there are no excuses for it. Just stop, and think about what you're saying and who you are saying it to the next time you're about to hit "send." For the sake of all of humanity, please stop.