Can Web Anonymity Transform Shyness into Sadism

Apart from all the biological and evolutionary aspects that humans relatively share in common, we all have different levels of personality traits that formulate who we are. Some people are loud and colorful, others are clean and organized, and others are timid and solitary. You might already have an idea of which traits you identify with, or you could take the Big Five Personality Test, which determines your high personality traits among the Big Five Personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Personality is thought to be an innate feature in humans, present from the day we are born, and can influence what environment we expose ourselves to. What if, based on your personality types and tendencies, we could predict what kind of person you may turn out to be? It is possible, at least for shy people. Shyness is a personality type that studies demonstrate as being more susceptible to using the Internet than others (Ebeling-Witte 715). Due to this larger exhibition of Internet use by shy people, as compared to other individuals, a transformation can occur from being shy and introverted into neurotic sadistic individual. But, how? First you have to know whom psychologists classify as shy.

Introversion vs. Shyness

Introversion is associated with more internal thoughts, feelings and moods, and avoiding excessive external stimulation, unlike extroverts. Introverts are usually more quiet and distant, characteristics that can be applied to shy individuals as well. And while shy individuals also enjoy smaller groups of friends and passive interactions, they are more susceptible to neurotic tendencies such as social anxiety (Odacı 2383).

So, only those who have high levels of introversion and neuroticism can be accurately characterized as the stereotypical shy individuals we are all aware of (Ebeling-Witte 715). Unfortunately, for these individuals, their social discomfort results in trouble forming face-to-face relationships with real people (Ebeling-Witte 713). And so to manage this fear of rejection and mockery, shy individuals resort to low levels of activity in order to both avoid and maintain the need for social contact. Such activities include, to no surprise, using the Internet.

Shyness and Web Anonymity

Yes, the Internet appears to be the solution for timid individuals’ social problems as they have the opportunity to engage in multiple activities such as online gaming, gambling, chat rooms, and even adult sex sites. According to the “Social Compensation Hypothesis,” the Internet “benefits” introverted shy individuals because it simulates human interactions while concealing their identities, and thus they use it more frequently (Odacı 2383). But, then again, shy introverts are not the only ones affected by an increase in Internet usage. Facebook, according to Kuo and Tang, is a social network highly linked to personality traits such as extroversion, openness, and (wait for it) neuroticism. The strong correlation between these traits and Facebook is probably due to the ease in connecting and communicating with friends, creating events, and sharing personal information.

Because of this ease in connecting with people online, one could say that extroverts use the Internet more, which the “Social Networking Hypothesis” supports (Odacı 2383). However, every person is capable of exposing their identities on Facebook, including shy introverts, but they seem to use the Internet furthermore for web anonymity. In websites that allows comments, such as YouTube and Reddit, people are able to conceal their true identities and roam the web pages free of judgment, guilt, or fear, meaning that people may behave in any manner they wish. All this freedom could create a change in behavior and personality.

The Trolling Sadist INTERNET-TROLLS

After reading about studies which strongly correlated shyness with extensive use of the Internet, meaning that shy people choose to use the internet more, I began to wonder what effects the Internet could be on shyness personality types because of its dominating presence. Following much thought and research, it all became clear: they become “trolls.” Online trolls, that is. Online “trolling” is described as “the practice of behaving in a deceptive, destructive, or disruptive manner in a social setting on the Internet” for no reason except that they simply can (Buckels 1).

According to a study, “Trolls Just Want to Have Fun,” participants who demonstrated troll-like qualities also displayed high scale levels of the “Dark Tetrad” traits, which include Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, and sadism. However, sadism appears to have the strongest correlation above all (Buckels 4). This wasn’t the only discovery though, it was found that excessive technology use is linked to sadistic-trolling behavior since the Internet is an “anonymous environment” that promotes and fosters this personality type (Buckels 5). Although researchers of this study initially inferred that this form of online sadism correlates to high extroversion and low neuroticism, but little addresses and supports this theory. The the earlier studies mentioned on heavy Internet use, on the contrary, do support the idea that introversion yields Internet use more because of its anonymous nature, which lessens the social anxiety caused by high levels of neuroticism (Buckels 4; Ebeling-Witte 715). Therefore, shyness appears to be an evident connection to sadistic-trolling, in which the neurotic half of shyness overpowers the introversion half, and even takes an adverse turn.

From Shyness to Sadism

So when does the does the transformation from shyness to sadism occur? you may ask. Well, there is no definite answer because each individual has different ranges of personality traits. But, let’s assume that the “Social Compensation Hypothesis” is correct and shy people use the Internet more than other individuals; this anonymous opportunity will indubitably attract them to use it even more (Odacı 2383). Subsequently, According to the articles “Who are problematic internet users? …” and “Shyness, Internet Use, and Personality” excessive Internet use correlates with shyness and could lead to Problematic Internet Use, which occur when an individual experiences “problems in psychological, social, school or working life as a result of insufficient control of Internet use ” (Odacı 2382). In other words, shy people have Problematic Internet Use and feel the need to spend more time online than other people as a method of control mechanism to avoid social anxiety.

Trolling is a form of Problematic Internet Use, which appears to stem from shyness that has generated into “everyday sadism” in some cases (Buckels 5). The culprit of this transformation is excessive Internet use and, preferably, anonymous Internet use. Shy people choose this path on their own, though, resorting to the Internet to satisfy emotional and social needs much like any other individual. With the internet’s presence spreading towards more of our daily lives and every aspect of them, web anonymity will become a more common outlet for shy people to express themselves, with adversity becoming an easier choice than ever, yet how they choose to embrace this ability will be up to them entirely.

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2 Responses to Can Web Anonymity Transform Shyness into Sadism

  1. There is definately a great deal to know about this issue.
    I love all the points you have made.

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