Online Disinhibition and Therapeutic Interventions in Cyberspace

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

Online Disinhibition

People tend to feel less inhibited online — for better or for worse. Dr. Suler uses the highly useful and equally descriptive term of “online disinhibition effect.” For instance, a shy person might finally get clear about expressing ideas in text, with nobody’s real-time disapproval to interrupt the process. On the other hand, a usually self-contained person might become full of rage online, engaging in flame wars.

There are many reasons for people feeling freer online. And many consequences. A couple who meet online can easily project fantasies onto each other, which may or may not hold up when they meet in person. Friends who get to know each other online may reveal and learn much more, and faster, than they would face-to-face. Does this help the friendship, or is a slower pace better for long-term connection?

Did you know?
  • Many people are more likely to self-disclose online than in person.
  • Online teasing, harassing, cruelty and much more can more easily take place online as people do not see how they affect the targets of their actions.
  • Some therapists conduct therapy in cyberspace, such as Second Life.
  • In virtual reality, a client has the option of redecorating the office to reflect her state.
  • It’s possible to observe interactions online without people knowing you are paying attention.
  • Different online forums have their own social norms. For example, some require a pseudonym, while others forbid it.

Sign up for topical updates and invitations to participate with Dr. Zur