In the decades since the civil rights movement helped end segregation in the US, openly racist language has largely disappeared from public discourse.
Yet the re-election of America's first black president on November 6 sparked an ugly outburst by some students at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
Racial slurs initially made in posts on Twitter and Facebook were soon repeated at an impromptu anti-Obama protest where campaign posters were also burned. Meanwhile rumours of a riot on campus spread on social media.
Researchers say the incident has highlighted how some people are more prepared to voice racist views online than in person. And how social media can be used to mobilise people who share those views very quickly.
Social media was also used to bring together hundreds of students for a candlelit vigil the following night. The university authorities said the behaviour of a small minority had shamed the reputation of Ole Miss.
It has nothing to do with social media. People have been having these conversations privately with their friends since the beginning of history. Social media simply allows the rest of the world to peek in on those "private" conversations now. It's easy for a person who is tweeting back and forth with a small group of friends to forget that anyone on the planet can read their posts.
On top of that, the Keyboard Warrior is certainly not a new concept. Lots of people talk a good game on Facebook and Twitter, but quickly stfu when you confront them to their face. Bravado is easy when you think you're anonymous.