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AnnRichardsFinalResearch PaperEnglish20101/26/2018Computer-mediatedcommunication is an aspect of digital literacy and encompasses all humancommunication that takes place between two or more electronic devices.

You andI are engaging in this method of communication right now, the submission ofthis paper by way of the UWM D2L Drop-box by utilizing one of the library’scomputers, so it can be downloaded to your own personal device and read by you,is an example of computer mediated communication. Throughout this semester Ihave received informative course materials and personable messages alike, froman instructor whose voice I have never heard and whose face I have never seen.  Computer mediated communication is uniqueamong other major methods of communication, and has created its own rules,norms and effects on wider society. One major difference is how people feeluninhibited in their digital communications and the differences in how theircommunication reflects a lack of self-consciousness we do not see in othermajor modes of communications.

This loss of self-consciousness orself-awareness is also known as deindividuation.  All theway back in the 1950s a social psychologist, Leon Festinger, theorized thatwhen an individual is submerged in a group there is a loosening of their innerrestraints and they are more likely to engage in counter normative behavior. Theunderlying idea is that being an individual is desirable in a supportive socialclimate, but that in a threatening social environment people will more oftenseek to be part of a group, to be a face in the crowd. This was far before therise of mass media and instant global communication via the internet and otherelectronic communication systems. In the modern day we see the effect of thisloss of self-consciousness reflected in the kind of computer communication thatis now the norm. It has never been easier to blend in with the crowd and loseyour voice in the crowd of the masses. In Festinger’s model, anonymity leads toa direct lack of criticism by others and reduces the behavior inhibitors.

Wecan also see this inhibiting behavior reduction or shirking of responsibilityin a group because then it feels as though responsibility is partially acceptedby a group of others. Deindividuation behavior is considered out-of-characterfor the person. This behavior is often emotional, irrational, regressive, andimpulsive. Typically, there are social feedback loops in place that wouldinhibit such behavior but in a lot of computer mediated communication theserestrictions are not present.

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 Thereare several critical experiments that demonstrate the deindividuation effect inanonymity in the way that people act and cooperate with one another. In oneexperiment, a group of college students were instructed to deliver an electricshock to another student- a confederate. Half of the students were made to wearname tags and the other half were anonymous. The results were that theanonymous students were much more aggressive in their willingness to deal withshock compared to the groups where everyone had to wear name tags. Theconditions created a feeling of personal remoteness which made the girls lessself-conscious, less embarrassed, and reduced their inhibitions about hurtingthe victim of the shocks. This effect is somewhat room is reminiscent of theway that surgeons must learn to see patients as bodies in order to emotionallydistance themselves from act of cutting into another person’s body.

It suggeststhat the individual is able to compartmentalize their anonymous actionsseparate from the overall sense of self.Nowthat we have discussed how deindividuation affects the way of that peoplebehave it’s important to understand how it affects computer mediatedcommunication, the Online Deindividuation Effect and the six factors thatcontribute to it: Dissociative Anonymity, Invisibility, Asynchronicity,Solipsistic Introjection, Dissociative Imagination and The Minimization ofStatus and Authority. When discussing computer-mediated communication we areoften struck immediately that people are willing to say things online that theywould not be willing to say face to face this is the online disinhibitioneffect we can see this affect working in benign ways such as unusual acts ofkindness or the sharing of deep personal information or as toxics disinhibitionwhich can mean anger hateful language aggressive behavior Etc. But what causesthis behavior? The Online Deindividuation Effect seeks to answer this question.

 Dissociativeanonymity affects much of the computer mediated communication that happens inmodern society. It’s not easy to determine who a person is just by theirusername or email address instead we must rely on personal disclosure from theperson we are interacting with. As a result, users are able to hide some or allaspects of who they are or even alter some of these details. Anonymity allowspeople to separate their actions online and their in-person sense of self. Thisis also why they feel less self-conscious about disclosing and acting out, theonline self is compartmentalized, and they feel as though the online behaviors”Are not really me.” Invisibilityis another major factor in the deindividuation people experience online,because people with most computer mediated communication cannot see each other,they might not even know what the person looks like.

Major exceptions aremodern advances in programs like Skype and other video chat applications. Butthe vast majority of computer mediated communication is still text-based. As a result,users have the courage to go places and do things that they wouldn’t otherwisein a real-life setting, such as visit rooms where they know criminal activitygoes on or lurk on websites that commonly espouse ideologies that they disagreewith or are even fearful of.

The lack of visual cues with this kind of text-basedcommunication is a huge part of the disconnect because the entire aspect ofbody language and expression reading is off the table completely. This isreminiscent of the way that a classic psychoanalytic psychologist would havethe analysts sit behind the patient in order to remain physically ambiguous sothat the patients couldn’t see any of their body cues or facial movements.Physical reactions can be a big indicator and behavior inhibitor. We see peoplereact to this when they avert their eyes or avoid eye contact when discussingsomething potentially embarrassing or deeply personal. Asynchronicityis another big part of deindividuation because the communication is not in “realtime” for the most part. People may take seconds, minutes, hours, days, or evenweeks to reply to somebody’s email. And not having to cope with someone’simmediate reaction is oftentimes liberating for communicating.

Some people findit relieves anxiety to know that they’re not expected to have an immediatereply to someone’s communication, that they have time to ruminate on the wordsthat they use and reflect on the tone and meaning. Some people even takeadvantage of this asynchronous communication by leaving the domain or platformafter posting something particularly emotional vitriolic or hateful a type of”Emotional Hit and Run.”Solipsisticintrojection means that absent the face-to-face personal communication anddirect knowledge of the way a person looks and sounds, the individual oftenperceive the person they’re communicating with in a way that’s different fromthe way they actually are. People will be inclined to imagine the voice of theperson they’re communicating with or even come up with some idea what they looklike with their appearances what their gender is, what their races, what theirreligion, place of origin, or accent. The mental control that a person has overhow they perceive the person they’re communicating with electronically givesthem a sense of security in that it’s “safer” to communicate with the voices inone’s own head than it is with an actual living breathing person. Dissociativeimagination this concept that one’s online persona exist separately and apartfrom the real self.

People often split the online fictional persona from theiroffline behavior and actions they imagined that their behavior online is a sortof game with different rules and different expectations that don’t apply to inreal life. That this behavior is a kind of make-believe that has nothing to dowith reality often times we see the people’s imagined online self will develop incomplexity and depth. This projection of the self also applies to the avatarsthat people use to represent themselves visually.

A classic example is thework-a-day man who has a superhero as a profile picture, a representation thatis not necessarily the truest to life, and so the man can compartmentalize.Minimizationof Status and Authority is a fascinating phenomenon that contributes to thedifferent attitudes that are expressed online. Authority figures express theirpower and status in many ways: the environment that they’re in, their bodylanguage, the way they dress, and their tone. But online in purely textcommunication, these factors are gone, and it really reduces the impact oftheir authority. In many environments online, everyone has an equal opportunityto express him or herself regardless of status well to race or gender everybodycan make a free account and start typing away, expressing themselves.

And whilethe outside world may have an impact on one’s popularity or power incyberspace, far more important is one’s communication skills or the puremeritocratic value of their ideas and their technical skills. As a result, theappearance of authority is minimized. Nowthat we have addressed some of the major consequences of increased anonymityand social decision-making we will examine the two leading theories show therole of on anonymity in deindividuation behavior. The two main models are:Deindividuation Theory and Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effects orSIDE. Deindividuation is often described as the effect that the group has onthe behavior of the individual where they become able to do things in groupsthat they would not be inclined to do as an individual. That immersion in acrowd or group results in a loss of self-identity.

The role of anonymity in theDeindividuation Theory suggests that anonymous conditions cause people to lackawareness of who they are as an individual. In 2001 P.G. Zimbardo found thatthe effect of anonymity is directly related to the group size, that the largerthe size of the group the higher degree of anonymity is experienced by theindividuals within that group and there will be a larger amount of anti-socialbehavior as a result.

An example of this is in 1976 researchers observe groupsof children as they were trick or treating on Halloween the researchers observethat children who were wearing masks that conceal their identity or wenttrick-or-treating in groups stole extra candy when they were alone with a candybowl. That same year, Douglas and McCarthy observed examined abroad range ofcommunity computer mediated Communications and found the people whoseidentities were unknown showed a greater tendency towards aggressive behaviorwhich includes hostile and threatening messages as well as less inhibitionabout sharing personal and often sexual information. This was confirmed in 2006when a survey found that 16 to 23 year old young people, particularly males,indicated they were more inclined to share personal information and discusssexual topics over the Internet when they knew that their identities wereconcealed. It was also discovered that the greater degree of anonymity that wasperceived by the subjects led to a greater intent for sexual disclosure. Boththe sexual and aggressive behavior are generally considered to be sociallyunacceptable behaviors by broader society. Both were similarly less uninhibitedby social norms under these conditions. Thesocial identity model of deindividuation effects model is described as anapproach that that uses conformity to group norms to explain these observed crowdbehaviors and is often viewed as the more optimistic theory. In this theorygroup behavior is more about contributing to the good of the collective and thusis a more positive outlook than deindividuation theory is.

Particularly when itcomes to groups that individuals are convinced are important, he or she is morelikely to follow the norms of that group. In this model anonymity increases howmuch an individual is attracted to the group they also found that an individualwill self-stereotype in order to fit in more with the group. Anonymity in thistheory shifts awareness to group identity and increases awareness of otherdistinct individuals and is a far more social-identity based idea. A famousexperiment on this topic includes Postmes 2001 that states that anonymity mayactually increase social influence on individuals. In this experiment a groupof college students were split into two groups, who are then tasked to cooperatewith one another to accomplish a goal. One group was set to work together inthe group with real names and photos used for communication. The other grouphad an anonymous avatars and usernames. It was found that the visuallyanonymous group was actually more likely to categorize themselves in terms oftheir group when they were filling out the post-experiment questionnaires.

There was also a noted increase in the participants feelings of group attraction.Far from the typical anti-social behavior that has been discussed thus far, theloss of self-awareness and self-identity actually caused people to become moreinvested in the overall group identity and thus more cooperative andproductive. Both of these theories provide insight into the effects of groupidentity and the effects of anonymity or just reduced self-identification thatarises in Computer Mediated Communication both theories require more researchto make more definitive statements about the nature of computer mediatedcommunication. In conclusion, wesee the world around us changing all the time and one of the major changes ofour time is the way that we communicate and connect to one another. In myMother’s collage years, she would not have even been able to conceive of theidea of a collage course that takes place entirely online.

But none the less,the transmission of knowledge from person-to-person with the use of thecomputer is an effective way to communicate even if it does have itsdistinctions from the conventional methods of communication. The differences inthe way a person engages with computer mediated communication and conventionalcommunication can be characterized by an overall lack of self-awareness orself-consciousness. This can have both positive and negative effects theuninhibited user might be more inclined to engage in toxic behavior, but theycan also see a lessening of social anxiety and more courage in positiveinteractions. Computer aided communication is being used by more and morepeople every year and we are yet to understand the full effects that this willhave on overall society.

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