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[[quoteright:350:[[Webcomic/PennyArcade http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/greaterdickwad_6440.jpg]]]]
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The '''G'''reater '''I'''nternet '''F'''uckwad '''T'''heory. First [[TropeNamer given a name]] by the boys at ''Webcomic/PennyArcade'', it is a theory that seeks to illuminate why so many people seem to degenerate into antisocial {{Jerkass}}es online, when they might only be mildly unpleasant or even polite in-person.

The equation is ''"Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = [[{{Jerkass}} Total Fuckwad]]"''

This phenomenon has been studied in an academic setting, and by all accounts the satirical analysis is spot-on; normal people become more aggressive when they think their behavior carries no real-world social consequences. When people do not have to worry about getting in trouble with their [[NeverLiveItDown loved ones, school, or place of employment]], or getting into a direct physical altercation with anyone, they feel that they have nothing to lose being [[JerkAss shameless, insufferable jerks]] behind the veil of anonymity that is TheInternet.

Hence the depressingly large number of people who think that being a {{Troll}} is funny, and that {{the Internet}} is the perfect place to spew all the bigoted, [[{{Hypocrite}} hypocritical]], provocative, or otherwise hateful bile they would never say in real life. The GIFT also contributes to the pervasiveness of cyber-bullying [[KidsAreCruel among kids]] [[TeensAreMonsters and teenagers]], which has led to [[DrivenToSuicide suicides]]. The academic name of the phenomenon is the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_disinhibition_effect Online Disinhibition Effect]], but even leading researchers use GIFT outside the journals.

The idea of anonymity's irresistible corruption due to lack of consequences and escape from [[BigBrotherIsWatching restraints caused by being watched]] is extremely pervasive. Think of the people who leave unholy messes and/or graffiti in public restrooms. Nobody sees them do it, and they almost certainly wouldn't make such a mess in their own bathroom where they'd have to clean it up ([[TrashOfTheTitans hopefully]]), or when they're a guest in someone's home. The basic idea [[OlderThanFeudalism was first proposed by]] Creator/{{Plato}} in ''Literature/TheRepublic'', where he recounts the myth of the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Gyges Ring of Gyges]], one of the original InvisibleJerkass stories. At least one psychology paper has confirmed that Internet anonymity [[http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2014/02/internet_troll_personality_study_machiavellianism_narcissism_psychopathy.html is attractive to narcissistic, psychopathic, sadistic people]] who take pleasure in making others suffer.

The only reason why it's not a law like GodwinsLaw is because of the FunWithAcronyms.

Fun fact: the German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish word ''Gift'' means "poison"... which is oddly appropriate.

A {{Subtrope}} to SeriousBusiness and InternetBackdraft. VocalMinority is where most of this comes from. See also InternetToughGuy, {{Troll}}, WhiteKnighting, GarbagePostKid, ResidentFreak, ADarkerMe, BecameTheirOwnAntithesis, and {{Griefer}} for specific forms of this, or any comment section. Compare WhatYouAreInTheDark.