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March 23, 2004
Onlineness and Truthfulness
Here’s a short NYT essay by Clive Thompson that presents evidence and speculation regarding the thesis that people are actually more honest online than in person. The article makes two observations that may help explain why: first there’s the feeling of being on the record (“On the Internet […] your words often come back to haunt you.”), and second, cyberspace seems to bring about disinhibition (“There’s something about the Internet that encourages us to spill our guts, often in rather outrageous ways.”).
Thompson seems to really believe in the thesis, and towards the end of the essay foresees the emergence of a reputation society: “As more and more of our daily life moves online, we could find ourselves living in an increasingly honest world, or at least one in which lies have ever more serious consequences.”
While I’m not sure that things are quite so simple as “The internet makes you more honest”, the online world certainly makes it difficult to say contradictory things, even across contexts (assuming that you tie everything you say to a single identity, which not everyone does).
It’s a chewy question. I wonder if the “online vs. in person” aspect is essential. Couldn’t the whole issue be simply reframed as one of writing versus talking?
(link via Cynthia Typaldos )
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