not trying to cover all the reasons here, just one that I’ve just twigged about:
we don’t see the other person’s face, so we don’t see how hurt they are.
it’s the total opposite of those computer games where people play at aggression and when they shoot they see the result in full colour – in the “game” of online communication, on social networking sites, on discussion forums, in the comments on blogs, we talk to strangers and we don’t see their faces so we don’t see the result of our hurtful words.
Sometimes they might reply and express their hurt, but bare words on the screen won’t necessarily give us the full picture. Sometimes they might just lash out in retaliation and we might be too busy defending ourselves to realise they’re reacting like that because we’ve hurt them. Sometimes they might not say anything.
Without a webcam, we will not see their reaction. We won’t see them flinch, gulp, hold back tears.
Of course this also applies in some face-to-face situations – if, for example, you’re talking to someone who is very Englishly stiff-upper-lipped. Some people just won’t show their emotions. It could be cultural, as with the English stiff upper lip thing; it could be a gender thing, with men being taught to be macho; it could be a defence mechanism – if, say, someone has been bullied and decided that the way to avoid bullying is to pretend you’re not hurt, denying the bullies the pleasure of knowing they’ve brought you to tears. There are all sorts of reasons why people develop the habit of hiding their feelings – but the end result is that, very much like in online interactions, the people who upset them will never know how bad it was.
and without seeing the result of our hurtful words, it’s a lot easier to keep on using them.