PsyBlog has a taken a series of studies and nailed down some reasons people are generally less inclined to follow social conventions when online versus in person.
1. Anonymity: Being online offers the opportunity to be relatively anonymous if you want to be. When people feel that they can’t be identified, they are more likely to do or say things they normally wouldn’t. Sometimes this results in over-sharing on social networks, where things are not anonymous at all, but the risk of sharing is perceived as lower.
2. Invisibility: When others can’t see us, we don’t have to worry about physical signals that indicate emotion. For many, it is easier to talk about highly emotional topics in an online setting because it is less personal and helps to limit emotional connectedness.
3. Stop/Start Communication: In person we have to respond off the cuff and usually right away. Online we can wait to respond or not respond at all. Without the immediate feedback from others to assess how the interaction went, we have a chance to go one of two ways: To say risky or even inflammatory things and run from the conversation or take the opportunity to think and formulate a better response. Either way, this form of communication leads to conversations that may not otherwise happen.
4. Imaginanationland: With anonymity and invisibility teaming up, along with game and fantasy elements of online outlets, it creates a world where we think usual rules don’t apply. Forgetting which world you are in at times contributes to disinhibition.
5. Lack of Authority: You can sure get in trouble online, but it is definitely less risky than breaking laws in real life. Without a clear figure that looks to doll out punishment online, people tend to try getting away with things more often and seem less inhibited.