Oversharing: Good or Bad?
Previously I had mentioned the ‘online disinhibition effect’. I looked at the six reasons (as described by John Suler) why the internet often lowers people’s inhibitions. This time around, I would like to delve more into the effects this phenomenon can have rather than its causes.
There are both positive and negative manifestations of this ‘disinhibition effect’, referred to by Suler, as ‘benign disinhibition’ and ‘toxic disinhibition’ respectively. The former can present itself in attempts to improve one’s personal development. The lowering of inhibitions in online interaction, can help people — especially those who are shy or introverted — disclose personal information to others, allowing them to explore their own identity and perhaps even work through interpersonal conflicts. In addition, people who are going through similar experiences might be able to relate and learn from them. This disclosing of personal information, however, could also fall under ‘toxic disinhibition’ in cases that involve the sharing of embarrassing details or information that could ultimately be damaging.
This brings me to the negative repercussions of the ‘disinhibition effect’. As opposed to the previous, ‘toxic disinhibition’ refers to when people act out aggressively towards others, in ways they wouldn’t in a real-life scenario. The ability to be anonymous, invisible and the fact that communication is rarely done in real time, are perhaps the main causes of this behaviour which usually manifests in the form of swearing, threats, harsh criticisms, and generally anything that instigates hostility towards one another. Unlike ‘benign disinhibition’ this causes disclosure of things with the intention of damaging the other person’s self-image (and sometimes even their own), rather than geared towards personal growth.