In their report on the results of the study, the scholars paint a picture of Wikipedians as social maladapts who “feel more comfortable expressing themselves on the net than they do off-line” and who score poorly on measures of “agreeableness and openness.” Noting that the findings seem in conflict with public perceptions, the researchers suggest that “the prosocial behavior apparent in Wikipedia is primarily connected to egocentric motives … which are not associated with high levels of agreeableness.”
And Youtubers are no better:
contributors are primarily driven by a craving for attention. If the videos they upload aren’t clicked on, they tend to quickly exit the “community.” YouTubers view their contributions not as pieces of “a digital commons” but as “private goods” that are “paid for by attention.”
Scott Caplan, a communications professor at the University of Delaware, tells New Scientist that studies of social networks generally indicate that “people who prefer online social behaviour tend to have higher levels of social anxiety and lower social skills.”
None of this is particularly surprising. But the findings do lend a darker tint to the rose-colored rhetoric that surrounds online communities. A wag might suggest that “social production” would be more accurately termed “antisocial production.”
I’m not sure I think it’s terribly fair to characterize people with high social anxiety and lower social skills as inherently anti-social. Not everyone’s an extrovert. If the internet gives a tool for the more anxious to reach out to others and interact, where’s the problem?