Study Says People Who Are Jerks Online are Likely to Be Jerks Offline, Too

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A new paper from the University of Manitoba suggests something that sounds obvious but maybe isn't -- people who troll online are likely to self-report as being sadists in real life.

Here's why that's a little surprising. On OTM, we've talked a lot about the idea of "online disinhibition effect," which describes how people online feel free to behave in ways they might not in real life. It tracks with common sense -- if people are allowed to be anonymous, it's possible people will act out because there's no consequence to their real life reputation. 

Because people understand that idea on a basic level, they sometimes make the mistake of thinking that if they were to meet a troll in real life, that person would most likely turn out to be a nice person. They're not sadists, they're just internet sadists! But what the Manitoba paper suggests is that a shy jerk who becomes unshy when they're online is probably still a jerk.

The non-academic proof for this is the story of when comedian Chris Gethard tracked down a guy who'd left a bunch of nasty comments about him online. Gethard does a video interview with the guy, Travis, and Travis turns out to have the personality you'd expect after reading the Manitoba findings.