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Responding to Online Toxicity: Which Strategies Make Others Feel Freer to Contribute, Believe That Toxicity Will Decrease, and Believe that Justice Has Been Restored?use asterix (*) to get italics
Alison I. Young Reusser, Kristian M. Veit, Elizabeth A. Gassin, and Jonathan P. CasePlease use the format "First name initials family name" as in "Marie S. Curie, Niels H. D. Bohr, Albert Einstein, John R. R. Tolkien, Donna T. Strickland"
<p>When we encounter toxic comments online, how might individual efforts to reply to those comments improve others’ experiences conversing in that forum? Is it more helpful for others to publicly, but benevolently (with a polite tone, demonstrated understanding of the original comment, and empathy for the commenter; Young Reusser et al., 2021), correct the post? Is going along with or joking along with the commenter in a benevolent way helpful? Or is retaliating – returning toxicity for toxicity – the best strategy? Using real Reddit conversation pairs – a toxic comment followed by a reply – as stimuli, we conducted a pilot study (n = 126 participants) and pre-registered experiment (n = 1357 participants) investigating the impact of three kinds of replies to online toxicity (benevolent correction, benevolent going-along, or retaliation) on observers’ self-reported freedom to contribute to the conversation, their belief that the toxicity will be reduced, and their overall impression that justice has been restored. We found evidence that benevolently correcting the toxicity helped participants feel freer to contribute than retaliating against it. Benevolently correcting was also seen as the best option for dissuading the toxicity and restoring justice. These findings suggest that treating toxic commenters with empathy, understanding, and politeness while correcting their toxicity can be a useful strategy for online bystanders who want to intervene to improve the health of online discourse. Preregistered Stage 1 protocol: (date of in-principle acceptance: 01/23/2023).</p>
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online discourse, benevolence, empathy, forgiveness, toxicity
Social sciences
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2023-08-02 05:30:37
Chris Chambers