The Online Disinhibition Effect is when someone does or says things online that they wouldn’t do or say in real life. Examples of this can range from people ranting about their bosses, to when people do extraordinarily nice things for someone else that they wouldn’t normally do, to flaming on message boards and blog sites, etc. One of the reasons that the Online Disinhibition Effect can be a problem is that people often share way too much information online, leading to some serious “TMI” moments, which, other than making the viewing party feel extremely awkward at the time, can result in serious embarrassment for the sharer at a later date. Do you want your clients knowing about that moment? Consider that before posting.
I think that one of the reasons that online scammers have any “success” is due in part to the Online Disinhibition Effect. They weave a story of how the email recipient can supposedly help some people group somewhere and all of a sudden the scammer ends up with access to the credit card of the unknowing victim (Don’t do this. Generally speaking, if it’s in your spam folder, there’s probably a reason.), because the victim felt overly compelled to help, or do something that they thought was nice. This is obviously a problem, which I believe is lessened at least in part by the savvy, as well as by Spam or Junk Mail filters in email accounts.
How do we guard against the “TMI” effect caused by Online Disinhibition? Basically what it boils down to is this: If you wouldn’t do or say it in real life, don’t do or say it online. So if you wouldn’t open up about that kidney stone your uncle’s nephew’s brother’s son-in-law’s aunt’s fish had last month while vacationing near the border of Tanzania, please don’t share it online. The “TMI” effect thanks you in advance.
*TMI = Too Much Information