heory. 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.
to Serious Business
and Internet Backdraft
. Vocal Minority
is where most of this comes from. See also Internet Tough Guy
, 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