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[[caption-width-right:350:The Greater Internet Dickwad Theory]]
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The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory ("GIFT"), first [[TropeNamer given a name]] by ''Webcomic/PennyArcade'', is a theory that tries to explain why many people seem to become anti-social {{Jerkass}}es online in spite of any in-person behavior.

The GIFT [[https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19 equation]] goes like this: ''"Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = [[{{Jerkass}} Total Fuckwad]]"''.

This phenomenon has been studied in an academic setting; by all accounts, the comic's 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 they have nothing to lose by being [[{{Jerkass}} shameless, insufferable jerks]] behind the veil of anonymity that is TheInternet.

This leads to a (depressingly) large number of people thinking that cyberbullying 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-person. The GIFT also contributes to the pervasiveness of cyberbullying [[KidsAreCruel amongst young children]] [[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 discover that the anonymity and lack of consequence on TheInternet allows them to be more honest and talk about issues which, under normal circumstances, they would be unable to address. These issues can be as simple as [[PeripheryDemographic liking a movie, show, or musician normally seen as outside their demographic]], as serious as mental health issues, or somewhere in the middle like an embarrassing sexual fetish. In any 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 would not make such a mess in their own bathroom where they would 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 [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Gyges the 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, and sadistic people]] who take pleasure in making others suffer.

The rise of newer social media networks such as Website/{{Facebook}} and comment feeds on certain news sites, which require people to attach their real name and maybe even other details about themselves to any posts they make, has caused a re-evaluation of the theory. Plenty of people seem quite willing to act just as obnoxious, rude, bigoted, and abusive while posting under their real identity as they would if they were posting under a pseudonym. A lack of anonymity might dissuade some people from being jerks, but it does not appear to effectively push people into good behavior as was originally thought.

The only reason why the GIFT is not a law like GodwinsLaw is because of [[FunWithAcronyms the acronym]].

Fun fact: The German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish word ''gift'' means "poison", which seems...oddly appropriate.

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