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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 [[https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19 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 [[TalkToTheFist a direct]] [[NoHoldsBarredBeatdown physical altercation]] with anyone, they feel that they have nothing to lose by 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 cyberbully 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]]. It should be noted that the Online Disinhibition Effect cuts both ways; while some people become [[{{Jerkass}} jerks]], other people find the anonymity and lack of consequence on TheInternet allows them to be more honest and talk about issues that, under normal circumstances, they would be unable to speak about. These issues can be as simple as [[PeripheryDemographic liking a movie or show normally seen as outside their demographic]] or as serious as mental health issues, but in either case, the exact same anonymity that turns some people into [[{{Jerkass}} Jerkasses]] allows them to speak things that they might want to talk about but be unable to do normally for fear of social stigma.

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 [[DisgustingPublicToilet unholy messes]] and/or [[BathroomStallGraffiti 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.

Of course, the advent of newer social media sites such as Website/{{Facebook}} and comment feeds on certain news sites, which require people to use their real name and maybe even other details about themselves when posting, has put the theory a bit into question and re-evalutation, as plenty of people (barring the ones who uses fake names and throwaway accounts) seem quite willing to be just as obnoxious, rude, bigoted, and abusive while posting under their real identity as people posting under a pseudonym. Lack of anonymity, it seems, might dissuade some people from being jerks, but it doesn't appear that it is as effective a way to keep people on good behavior as originally thought.

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}}, GarbagePostKid, ADarkerMe, BecameTheirOwnAntithesis, TheGadfly, and {{Griefer}} for specific forms of this, or any comment section. Compare WhatYouAreInTheDark.