Like the bumper sticker says, character is how you act when no one's looking. But does that really count when you're online, on the phone or on the road? In response to an msnbc.com story, some brave readers shared the bad behavior they're guilty of when communicating anonymously.
"It's so much easier to hide behind a screen or phone. In real life face to face interaction I am reserved, quiet, shy but when no one knows who I am I can be as rude as I want," writes Chris, who remains somewhat anonymous by withholding his last name and location. "I'm guilty of willfully harassing people in chat rooms & message boards (not to an extreme point, just enough to get a reaction out of them).
"I've also lost my temper several times on the phone talking to customer service," Chris continues. "I do have a lot more patience on the phone than online. I guess speaking directly to someone isn't as anonymous as typing from behind a screen."
Read on for more tales of anonymous bad behavior.
(D)ealing with menus after menu on the phone before you can get a rep, makes me CRAZY! If companies had operators and not machines answer the phones and stop wasting my time with menus that don't apply to my situation, I'd be less angry when I finally get to speak to a REAL person. The more you waste my time, the madder I get... why is that so hard for companies to understand?
— John, Hoboken, N.J.
I've always been shocked to see how people act online. ... My biggest surprise came when my best friend started acting like a bully while we were talking online! I just couldn't believe it and let him know how I felt about it. He later told me that it *woke him up* and made him realize how he was acting differently. He's now himself whenever we chat now btw :)
— Rej, Montreal
My "Jeckyl and Hyde" comes out in the car. I have totally floored friends and family with my behavior behind the wheel. I am the "road rage" queen, but not proud of it.
— DD, North Andover, Mass.
I've never been a monster but I've been a customer rep for a retirement firm and I've had people go through drive throughs, use the rest room, and yes, use profanity that would make anyone blush. I've even had someone call in drunk and I could hear the ice clinking in the glass!
— P., Kansas City, Mo.
I try not to, but yeah, occasionally I will give a snarky answer on a message board. And road rage, hoo boy! But I'm not as bad as some people! I was called a snob and the "c" word on a message board because I mentioned that I show dogs and one of mine is one major away from his champion title. This was in reference to a petstore selling the same breed as mine for over double what I paid for my dog from a reputable breeder.
— Rosemarie, Kennewick, Wash.
Actually, because there is time to review posts, I am actually gentler online than in person. A quick temper can result in saying things in person that are immediately regretted; however, in "print" there is time to reflect on the point that needs to be made. A careful, thoughtful post is more likely to sway opinion toward the goal I may have in mind.
— Ronald Gaspard, Winchendon, Mass.
I am a frequent poster on a particular women's networking site and am amazed at the degree of venom some people espouse online. Strong opinions that come straight out of no where lambasting politicians, celebrities and people of color. Yet I just know..99% of these people if it was necessary for their names, images and addresses had to be posted alongside the divisive and hate filled words they post, they wouldn't choose to say the things they say. There is something about the anonymous nature of the internet that brings out a side in some people that gives them a false sense of security to say whatever they want. I say false sense of security because we truly are growing closer and closer to a time when no matter how much you try to hide behind made up usernames and the like....who you are will be revealed. And when that happens, I think we will see a dramatic decline in nasty postings.
— Belinda Joy, Milwaukee, Wis.
Like the woman in the story, I get mean in the car. My kids also get embarrassed and I've had to curb my behavior when dropping my daughter off at Middle School. Also, since purchasing a new car that is very noticeable (a Mini Cooper Clubman) and rare in my town, I can't escape people recognizing me. I guess I had better start being good.... :(
— Deb, Lewisville, Texas
When talking to customer service, I treat people just as I would if we were face to face. I understand they are only doing their job and they have rules and procedures they have to follow that they have no control over. They deserve respect and in return I get respect back. I don't flame or belittle people online because it is not who I am and I dont believe I am as anonymous as I would like to believe.
— Tracey, Atlanta
I'm ABSOLUTELY mean to some people on the phone and via online boards! No doubt! And it's not that I'm 'two faced'...I genuinely HATE stupid people and those who waste my time with solicitations at my place of business. For the most part, I'm just as brash in person. If you've got a brat acting up in public, I'll call the kid out for it and then give you a piece of my mind for raising the little turd to act that way in public. If you're the kind of person who doesn't think about anyone else but themselves, or can't conduct transactions in a timely manner when among people, I'll be damn quick to give you an ear full for being a social retard.
— Will, Kissimmee, Fla.