Study: Insecurity about Appearance Causes Aggression Online

While universal access and anonymity on the internet has enabled more freedom of expression than ever for all walks of life, this very nature has given rise to cyber violence that can easily be inflicted on or by anyone online. The Korean government has been wrestling with this new problem in modern-day wired life, attempting to further understand its causes and combat it through research and legislation. A new report about internet violence caught the attention of netizens.

Article from Herald Live News:

Insecurity About Appearance Leads to Aggressive Tendencies on the Internet


A new study revealed that dissatisfaction with appearance leads to aggressive tendencies on the internet.

According to the Green Umbrella Foundation for Children, on May 28th at the 7th Children’s Welfare Forum, Researcher at Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs Song Tae-min, and researcher at Korean Institute of Criminology Song Ju-yeong, gave a presentation about “The State of School Violence in Korea – Predictive Modeling of Categorized Cyber Bullying by Analyzing Social Media”.

The research team analyzed 435,000 posts related to “cyber bullying” on news websites, blogs and social networking media between January 2011 and March 2013. They employed “opinion mining,” a method that interprets and classifies implicit psychology as well as explicit expressions. Netizens were placed into one of three categories: aggressors, victims, and bystanders who write comments about an aggressor or a victim but do not get directly involved in the conflict.

The analysis revealed that the biggest cause of aggressors in cyber bullying is dissatisfaction with their appearance. It also showed that victims tend to avoid being around people and are not sociable while bystanders tend to be impatient and impulsive.

Past research shows that in real-life bullying, aggressors tend to feel superior to others based on their appearance and have a strong urge to dominate. The team realized the opposing trend can happen online because one’s identity or appearance is not revealed.

Researcher Song Tae-min said, “When they are frustrated with themselves but cannot vent it in real life, it seems they unleash their anger by attacking others on the anonymous internet. As they keep doing this, they get addicted to the pleasure it gives them and develop more aggressive behavior.”

Impulsive tendencies were found to be relevant to victims and bystanders but unrelated to aggressors.

Cyber violence happened the most between 10 p.m and midnight. Many posts related to bullying spread especially on Twitter as retweets.

It was also found that the number of posts related to bullying explosively increased when there were highly publicized issues such as “bullied middle school student’s suicide in Daegu” in 2011 and “girl group T-ara’s bullying controversy” in 2012.

The team said, “Cyber violence can be inflicted even when the victim is unknown to the aggressor. With this nature in mind, we need in-depth research and educational support programs.”

Comments from Naver:

Ke ke ke, that’s why those who write mean comments on the internet tend to be pathetic-looking, ke ke ke.

gogo****: [Responding to above]

It’s ironic that yours is a mean comment, too, and other comments here are also mean comments ^^;;


Mmm….that’s why Ilbe kids are ugly…… Forgive me for not understanding their wounded heart.


There is this old saying. “People act the way they look.” This is so true for all times and places.


I send my consolation to Ilbe bugs… Sorry for not understanding you guys so far.


Daum Agora zombies, Today Humor pretentious hypocrites, Nate Pann girls, BBQ Ilbe…they all look the same to outsiders but they bash each other and hate their own kin, ke ke ke.


Ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke, there are a lot of loud-mouthed netizens who are losers in real life.


That’s why Ilbe users are ugly..and I will get downvotes for saying this, ke ke. Lol @ aggressive tendency, ke ke.


Uglier women tend to talk more behind others’ backs, ke ke ke.


This must be true as Jo Jung-chi was once a famously mean netizen.


This article must have made mean netizens uncomfortable, ke ke ke ke ke.


So they are letting out their frustrations about their appearance on the internet.


Is that why Infinite Challenge’s Noh Hong-chul Special was bashed so much? Ke ke ke


Yeah, I knew it.


To be accurate, it doesn’t imply mean netizens tend to be ugly. It’s just that mean netizens tend to be unconfident and insecure about their appearance. You know, there are many people who are insecure about their looks even though they look decent. You don’t have to be ugly to be like that. Even if you are ugly, as long as you just accept the way you are, that wouldn’t cause aggression. Aggression is caused by insecurity.


That is natural. Those who write harsh comments just because they are anonymous are hermits or suffering from insecurity complexes.


Certainly, pretty and handsome people tend to have a good personality and good manners.


Agreed! Orcish bitches flock to articles about pretty women and pour out mean comments calling them disgusting or plastic monsters.


Pitiful……sad……..ㅠ tsk


For the same reason, if you met power bloggers in real life, they are fucking shitty and tacky. Because bums in real life are desperately trying to become famous online, ke ke ke ke.


Those bitches who write mean comments on articles about female celebrities must be doing that out of real jealousy.

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  • bang2tang

    Fred Fong must be an exception since he is already handsome.

  • lonetrey / Dan

    If I like to troll myself with self-deprecating humor, then… What does that make me? o_O

    • Insomnicide

      For bullying yourself, that’s 5 years in the isocubes.

    • mr.wiener

      It means you should hunt yourself down and kick your own arse.

      • lonetrey / Dan

        I better get on that then. This guy is super elusive; i don’t think I’ve ever seen my bully in real life before!

        I catch his mirror image twin hanging around sometime, he’a a bit of a creeper. Always in my house, follows me to work sometimes.

        • mr.wiener

          I bet he’s sleeping with your missus too!

    • Trisha Tolkien

      This is only vaguely relevant but FWIW every time I see your avatar it reminds me of an Asian Bugs Bunny…it’s really cute in a quirky way.

      • lonetrey / Dan

        Lol! Thanks, I guess? Haha I know, I have that buck teeth thing going on :P …. or rather, :B

  • Thanks to SK plastic surgery…I don’t care about this story! Im happy now and love K-POP!

    • Doge Wallace

      You probably are very ugly in real life, though. :)

      • tomoe723

        According to this study, your aggressive comment tells how insecure you are of your own appearance. Lol.

        • Doge Wallace

          OMG, you too!

          • Insomnicide

            According to this study, we’re all ugly.
            Go home everyone, the gig is over.

    • bang2tang
    • wrle

      your personality needs a plastic surgery.

  • UserID01

    Holy shit, the picture they used for the article on the home page is terrifying.

  • Insomnicide

    A society that puts zealous emphasis on physical perfection has lots of people with insecurity and inferiority complex about their appearance?
    Who would have thought?

    • 나비

      But its ok cause if they have money, they just buy a new face and become a Korean celeb. Pretty much how most of them were pre surgery, average (some below average) people who spent lots of money on their surgeries, skin treatments, makeup, clothes etc viola, Miss Korea!

      • Sillian

        Why do all your comments sound bitter? You said you are a Caucasian female, right?

        • 나비

          No, I’m a 250lb black man.

          • As a 250lb black man, I call shenanigans.

          • 나비

            You mean funnigans! Trolling Sillian is easy, just mention Korea and plastic surgery and he/she/it will always go on about how you’re wrong ((cause you don’t agree with him/she/it).

        • 나비

          Oh and I guess I could ask” Why do you spend an a lot of time always defending Koreans and their love for Plastic surgery?” Anyone who has lived there (or knows Korean women) can you tell you how rampant that shit is. I lived there 4 years, I knew about 5 korean women who had not had any surgery, the rest all had stuff done. Not to mention the shit ton of ads everywhere for it. Oh and their celebs, always getting busted for having a shit ton done. Like the last Miss Korea, a Frankenstein.

          Its not that Its bad, it’s a personal choice (though it carries consequences for society as a whole). But to say it doesn’t happen at the frequency that it happens in Korea or that these celebs are” natural” is just wrong, . There’s a huge PS culture, I rarely saw young women who hadn’t had their e yr lids cut or something backed up into their noses. I’m not saying it tactfully, but then ,, the procedures are rather barbaric at their core anyway.

          You’re always the Korean plastic surgery apologist here, so what are you? An ugly korean who’s gotten plastic surgery?

          • Sillian

            I was getting a feeling that you are a bitter version of ‘Kate’ from the way you talk. Plastic surgery in Korea is such a popular topic and I’ve done my share of research on the subject. I’m reasonably well informed about the industry in Korea. I point out what I find strange or exaggerated. Just like you would claim you personally met few Korean women who had not had any surgery, I should say I have very few Korean friends and relatives who got any work done unless you are also talking about something like skin treatments. At least, not to the degree I can notice without asking. So whenever I hear some people talk as if almost every Korean gets work done, I find it very strange. It most likely depends on the demographic factors.

            About the Korean celebs getting plastic surgery, everyone knows many female celebs are likely to get something noticeable done in their career. I pointed out there are still many who look natural. We don’t know if they get something subtle done. It is still wrong to assume all Korean celebs look good because of plastic surgery like you seem to do. You probably have already seen this.


          • 나비

            You ever think maybe you take this stuff too seriously? My original comment was a joke, which you didn’t find funny, fair enough. You’re always arguing about it, but dude or m am, you ain’t gonna change peoples opinions. You say that asians who get surgery aren’t trying to look white, but that’s not a fact. It’s your opinion. Yes, Koreans say they want to look like Korean celebs…..who have gotten surgery. They take in the post surgery face of the celeb, but many people think those celebs ARE whitening their features with surgery to look” less asian and more like euroasians”. That’s their opinion.

            Dude people say shit about other races all the time. Good Lord, you know how much shit is tossed around on the net that ain’t true or doesn’t matter.

            Anyway sorry for being bit of a. …jerk about it.

          • Sillian

            So you know how you sound. Fair enough. I get your bias. You seem good at making ‘jokes’ that only sound bitter. I realize Fred Fong is such a comedian.

          • 나비

            Popular sentiment, no I didn’t make,this, someone else did but I found it hilarious.

          • 나비

            Are you American? If you’re Korean, I can understand why you didn’t get it. Koreans….don’t do satire. Americans do. Very heavily. Totally different sense of b humorous,

          • Small twon

            I thought woman’s body is theirs to do what they wish..hummm well, I could be wrong.

  • I am beautiful
    World peace yall

  • 금정산

    This article is great. It gives one behavioural theory to a current social problem.

    This theory will make cyber pests think long and hard about themselves and their own problems. I think Korean youth have serious self-image problems. Twice as bad as Western countries.

    We all know magazine covers make people feel insecure. Some of us realise certain advertising makes us feel inadequate so we will buy the product. Understanding these issues will reduce the impact of such influences, but we need to think more about the world we can create for ourselves.

    It’s ironic that in the early 70’s, the government banned 김정미 for being too sexy and a bad influence on public morals. Yet now the government financially supports Krap-pop knowing it will bring revenue to the cosmetic and cosmetic surgery industries.

    • tomoe723

      I doubt any theory will make them think long and hard about themselves and their own problems. If anything, they’ll find even more justification to continue being aggressive.

    • Bryan Cheron

      Who is 김정미?

    • Black_Plague

      “Yet now the government financially supports Krap-pop knowing it will bring revenue to the cosmetic and cosmetic surgery industries.”

      Hm, I thought the government’s support for K-pop was largely for export purposes? The nationalist theme behind it kinda implies that it’s more focused on trying to spread Korea’s ‘perfect land of sparkles’ image as a regional power.

      Not denying that revenue for cosmetic and cosmetic surgery industries are one aim, but it doesn’t seem like it’d be the main reason or focus. I’d further add that the government back in the 1970s was very different compared to the one today as well.

  • BillBo

    Did we need a study to tell us this? I don’t even think you need to narrow it down to someone being ugly, it’s just insecure people in general. And teenagers.

  • Barack Obama

    no wonder that ugly matt talks so much shit

  • yahnati

    “To be accurate, it doesn’t imply mean netizens tend to be ugly.
    It’s just that mean netizens tend to be unconfident and insecure about
    their appearance. You know, there are many people who are insecure about
    their looks even though they look decent. You don’t have to be ugly to
    be like that. Even if you are ugly, as long as you just accept the way
    you are, that wouldn’t cause aggression. Aggression is caused by

    ^ This commenter got it.

    “Certainly, pretty and handsome people tend to have a good personality and good manners.”

    ^ Good people have a nice personality and manners to match. What you look like has next to nothing to do with it (leaving some room for variance based on how someone’s personality may be affected by how they were treated based on their appearance, particularly when young).

    • 나비

      Reminds me of that Korean celeb who posted a picture she’d taken of a fat american woman to make fun of her. She was a beautiful (albeit due to plastic surgery) woman but still felt the need to belittle someone else pubically. Says more about the kind of person she is then anything, I.e an insecure, mean shallow person.

      • bang2tang

        Lee Chae-Young ? Her face looks pretty natural to me (not your typical gangnam unnies)

  • Black_Plague

    Wait a minute….so apparently being insecure about your appearance makes you aggressive online?

    Why not just track the IP addresses and interview these people personally? It seems that the study has forgotten to also include another category – trolls and folks who do it simply out of laughs and giggles.

    The Internet’s a rather foggy place, always has been and always will be.

  • Insecure Moderator keeps deleting my posts…they must be F***king ugly

    • bang2tang

      bwahaha, i should not put any comments on yours.

      • we must only say great things about SK…otherwise we will upset the insecure men moderating this site

        • bang2tang

          shanghaiist is the best, lol

  • goldengluvsk2

    even when beauty is subjective, feeling insecure is not only about “ugly” people but its a bit redundant to make a study about this… you have a society telling you you should look EXACTLY like this to get a job-get a lover-be treated like a person and when you try to, then you’re called plastic monster… thats something to be angry about if you ask me..

    • Trisha Tolkien


  • Gerhana

    the drama by the comments translated far surpasses game of thrones. ke ke ke

  • shittygook

    it can’t be right. because most koreans are think they are handsome. and theres too many trolls in korea..

  • SleepyBojio

    Go read smth on slut-shaming in kpopㅋㅋㅋ

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