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The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. First given a name by the boys at Penny Arcade, it is a theory that seeks to illuminate why so many people seem to degenerate into antisocial Jerkasses online, when they might only be mildly unpleasant or even polite in-person.

The equation is "Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = 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 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 shameless, insufferable jerks behind the veil of anonymity that is The Internet.

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, hypocritical, provocative, or otherwise hateful bile they would never say in real life. The GIFT also contributes to the pervasiveness of cyber-bullying among kids and teenagers, which has led to suicides. The academic name of the phenomenon is the 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 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 (hopefully), or when they're a guest in someone's home. The basic idea was first proposed by Plato in The Republic, where he recounts the myth of the Ring of Gyges, one of the original Invisible Jerkass stories. At least one psychology paper has confirmed that Internet anonymity is attractive to narcissistic, psychopathic, sadistic people who take pleasure in making others suffer.

The only reason why it's not a law like Godwin's Law is because of the Fun with Acronyms.

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

A Subtrope to Serious Business and Internet Backdraft. Vocal Minority is where most of this comes from. See also Internet Tough Guy, Troll, White Knighting, Garbage Post Kid, Resident Freak, A Darker Me, Became Their Own Antithesis, and Griefer for specific forms of this, or any comment section. Compare What You Are in the Dark.

Forum Pecking OrderOnline PersonasMisplaced Nationalism
Fleeting Demographic RuleLaws and FormulasGodwin's Law
Flame BaitInternet BackdraftGrammar Nazi
Garbage Post KidThe Jerk IndexGood Is Not Nice
Downloadable ContentImageSource/WebcomicsGypsy Curse
The GhostWe Are Not Alone IndexGirl Group
Fountain of MemesMemetic MutationIconic Outfit

alternative title(s): The Internet Is Serious Business; Online Disinhibition Effect; Anonymity Corrupts; Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory
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