New Kiwi research has proven that Facebook "trolls" aren't so
willing to be as cruel in everyday life.
Dr Val Hooper, an Associate Professor and head of Victoria
University's School of Information Management, guided student
research, in which young people aged between 18 and 20 were
interviewed to determine what behaviour they regarded as
acceptable and unacceptable in social networking.
A large number of respondents admitted that they gauge what
is acceptable behaviour online by watching and copying
"They will try something and then watch to see to what extent
their Facebook friends sanction their behaviour - the
reaction they receive determines how they develop their norms
of interaction," Dr Hooper said.
Most respondents believed there were differences between the
way people behaved offline and on Facebook.
The protection of the computer screen and the ability to talk
to someone without seeing their facial expressions meant that
people felt freer to say what they wanted without worrying
about the immediate consequences.
"If you post something hurtful you don't see the hurt in the
recipient's eyes," Dr Hooper said.
"You also have time to think about how to word your post to
have the most powerful impact."
Dr Hooper is concerned about the implications of an online
world that does not have strong guidelines in terms of
"There is potential for what happens online to spin off into
the offline environment - in fact we have seen evidence that
it is happening.
"If young people become accustomed to bullying people online,
what is to stop them becoming more violent offline as well?"
The study also showed Facebook to offer many benefits,
especially for young people who are striving to establish
their identity as young adults.
Positive experiences respondents mentioned included being
able to catch up with old friends, getting to know people
better, and meeting new people.
Most of the respondents' negative experiences were associated
with security, privacy and undesirable postings.
For instance, the majority of respondents indicated that they
didn't want to see information that was too personal,
particularly problems and private information such as
explicit romantic and sexual details.
People also felt an obligation to befriend people they would
normally avoid offline - with many confessing that they had
Facebook friends they actually didn't like.
"This has raised some interesting questions that would be
worthwhile to explore further," Dr Hooper said.
"For instance, if we are supposedly freer online, why is
there an obligation to accept unappealing friendship