The drive out of my office complex is pretty isolated–you aren’t on the road in or out unless you work for the same company as me. This is why I can declare with absolute certainty that it was someone I work with who blatantly cut me off as I entered the freeway on my way home today. I didn’t see who it was, and with thousands of employees in a single complex there’s a safe chance I wouldn’t know him anyway, but I’ve got my eye out for a black Sonata.
Now, this is annoying in its own right, because I got cut off in traffic. But it’s also alarming because it supports a scary theory that people act like huge jerks when they have a sense of anonymity. We take liberties we would never dare if we thought we’d be exposed or forced to justify our actions.
Take online commenters as another example, you know who they are. The people who find it necessary to post hurtful, offensive things as feedback on articles or news stories, with no regard for how it might make the author or other commenters feel. It actually has a name: the online disinhibition effect. These folks write things I suspect they wouldn’t utter in a million years in the actual presence of the people they were responding to so cavalierly.
I don’t like that we’re more apt to act like jerks if we think no one will find out. This is the very opposite of integrity, which instead urges us to do the right thing, even if no one is looking. All rudeness, but especially secret rudeness, is elitist and it’s bullying.
I think the world would be a little better if we all remembered the importance of integrity, and the domino effect it has on others. If my colleague had made a great effort to let me merge onto the freeway in front of him, instead of charging ahead, the gracious feeling would have stuck with me the whole drive home.