Why are people so rude online?

FactFinder 12

POSTED: 01:13 PM CDT Sep 26, 2013    UPDATED: 01:33 PM CDT Sep 26, 2013 
Wichita, Kan. -

Are you a mean person online? Do you know people who are?

Nasty, rude and offensive comments are common on social media. Things are said that people would never say face to face.

FactFinder 12 wanted to know why, so we took our questions to a panel of social media users, teachers, and even a psychologist. 

“It's just ingrained in everything we do,” said Amy DeVault, who uses social media in her classes at Wichita State.

Social media allows us to stay in touch with friends and family and lets us talk to our viewers like never before.

But for some, something else seems to happen.

“I see behavior from adults on social media I would never let myself display,” said Erin Thacher, WSU student.

So why do people say things online they would never say to someone’s face?

“People just seem to lose inhibition," DeVault said. "It's as if people are losing their manners.  Did mom not teach us how to behave?”

“Social media alters the power relationships in society," said Lou Heldman, interim director for the Elliot School of Communications. "On social media every voice is equally important at the moment they have the floor,"

Everyone on the Fact Finder panel agreed that social media is a good thing, but they’ve all seen the dark side of it.

“Sometimes it can get negative," said Caleb Wilson, social media manager. "I think sometimes they want to be heard and they feel like they have to go over the top."

“Whatever you put on the internet, it's like standing on a street corner with a sign over your head,” said Ann Hoskinson, WSU student.

But do people get that?

Molly Allen, psychologist, said she thinks online behavior doesn't register for most people. 

“Aggression is part of being human. We're all aggressive whether we like to admit it,” Allen said.

She said too much aggression, even online, could be a sign of a personality disorder. She’s seen patients who have problems with it.

“I ask what they’re getting out of this behavior,” Allen said.

Allen said it’s usually to get attention, even if it’s negative.

“It's almost like gambling on their end,” she said.

“If we don't feel like we're important on Facebook or Twitter we're not validated in real life,” Thacher said.

But does social media make it worse?

“It's not that society is more divided because of social media," Heldman said. "It's just amplified 24/7."

The panel added the world of social media is still in its early stages. They think as it evolves those who use it will make it a better place to be.

“A lot of our fans tend to police themselves,” Wilson said, talking about fans on the KWCH Facebook page.

“When social media works as it should the nastiest voices are overtaken by people saying that's not right,” Heldman said.

Studies on social media: