The reason why people are jerks online
The plague of the internet: The jerk.
We have all encountered him or her. They stalk message boards and comment sections, dishing out their unique brand of idiocy and cruelty. They are the online jerk. We have all been the target, at one point or another, of that hurtful moron that loves to make other's feel down. They get off on the idea that they can hurt your feelings with nay a consequence, because there they sit, completely anonymous and free to terrorize the internet's bustling population. The real kicker is not that they are jerks online, but rather that they are probably decent people in real life. Maybe they are the quiet guy in your class, or the coworker who doesn't interact much with you or anyone else. Suffice to say, internet jerks are probably cool in real life.
But that doesn't matter. Because unless you know the person in real life, they might as well be the second coming of Hannible Lecter. You know the type. If you didn't know any better (and more often than not, you don't), you might assume that you are dealing with the biggest jerk in all of history. And they enjoy that. Why? There are a few reasons, some of which are more realistic than others.
Can't see it? It's not real.
Humans are very visual creatures. We love to see things with our own eyes. And what we can't see, might as well not be real, at least not until we can witness it in person. I am sure the great wall of China is fantastic, but I've yet to see it, so "meh". The same can be said for the pyramids of Egypt. They are pretty cool in pictures, I guess.
This continues on, right down to written text. In real life, when you stand close to someone as we converse, our brains are constantly reading the other person's gestures, body movements and facial movements. Consciously, we are unaware of this. Despite being oblivious to our brains observations, these observations determine what we say next, and whether or not we will talk or listen now. Why does our brain do this? We are social creatures, and naturally want to "sit well" with others. By saying things when they are appropriate, and keeping things to ourselves when they should not be said, we remain on each other's "good side". In person, our conversations are directed by small, nearly invisible cues that one another give off as things are said and comprehended.
Online, things change dramatically. We can not see one another unless webcam's are involved, and as such, we are unable to see and therefore comprehend the emotional and physical responses to the words we speak. This means that if we say something that upsets or hurts someone else, our brain is unable to gauge their reaction, and may continue down the wrong path. While some people may know when they are being jerks online, others may not. Our brains inability to comprehend the responses to our actions or words can be crippling, leaving us far less "evolved" than we would be in person, having a real conversation. As our brain is in the dark, we might be a big jerk and not even realize it. For people who are very sensitive to the emotional and physical responses of others, they may be far less likely to be an internet jerk, as their brain can still "guess" the emotional responses to the words that they type.
Internet jerk's may be far less capable of judging and gauging reactions in real life. We all know people like that. It's the guy who you desperately want to stop talking, but he just keeps going, despite all of your emotional and physical cues that you don't want to talk to him right now. Is he a jerk who doesn't care? Maybe. But more likely, his brain is incapable of picking up on emotional and physical cues during conversation. When this real life jerk who can't pickup on cues and hints goes home, he's going to sit online and be a jerk there, too. And it might be because his brain can't "guess" the responses that his words are creating, much like in real life.
What to do when dealing with an internet jerk
- Don't be a jerk back, because their brain is probably unaware that they are hurting your feelings. They may be, but their brain is not, and as such, they are in a diminished mental state. They probably wouldn't do this in real life.
- Don't egg them on. In their diminished mental state, they are more neanderthal then man, and will probably get angry by your responses or reactions to their words.
- Do ignore them. If they are ignored, they move on, blissfully unaware of why they are being ignored (see my comment about diminished mental state above)
- They might enjoy being a jerk. Let them go enjoy it somewhere else. Remain polite and unoffended by their harsh words. They will go and pick on someone else.
They are every where. Underneath your bed, in your closet, and even on your message boards! The troll is the worst kind of internet jerk. They are crafty and wise when it comes to inciting rage and hurting feelings. They probably know the hurt and anger they cause... And that is why they do it. They want you to get angry, because they enjoy it. They want you to feel upset, because they enjoy it.
Do not feed the troll. Trolls thrive on your angry and hurt responses to their words. They want you to get angry or upset, because they know that you will respond to them. This is feeding the troll, and that is the last thing that you want to do. The troll is fully aware of their emotional responses they are creating in others. And unlike everyone else, they want those responses to be negative and upsetting. Why? Anonymity. To put it bluntly, they don't have the "balls" to do it in real life, so they do it from the comfort and safety of their own parent's basement. Ignore them and they will either smarten up and stop acting like a sociopath, or leave.
Spotting a troll
Spotting a troll is easy. In a sea of words being exchanged politely, the trolls words will stick out like a sore thumb. They may attack one or multiple people, and will often type immature words or responses, in a "No, YOU!" fashion. Their words will most likely be devoid of reason or intelligence. This is a tactic on their part, trying to reel you into their trap. Don't fall for it, you will just end up angry and ticked off.
Don't take anything personally
When it comes to dealing with internet jerk's, you have one defence against them. They have no qualms about ruining your day with their words, so it's up to you to prevent that. Ignore them. If they attack you with words, either respond politely or don't respond at all. Pretend that they didn't say anything. If anything, this will make them mad, rather than you. If you love to get back at a jerk, being polite or not responding to them at all is the best weapon.
If a troll is on your case, simply ignore them and do not give them the time of day. They have nothing better to do than incite rage and hurt people's feelings. This is a byproduct of a kid living in his parent's basement, or a very immature grown up. Either way, ignoring them is the best way to get rid of them. A troll that isn't being amused will go and troll elsewhere, and that is exactly what you want.
If you want your internet experience to be as decent as possible, then adopt one simple outlook:
Some jerk is trying to bring you down. Big deal. You're probably better looking than they are, funnier than they are, and more like-able than they are. Why else would they waste their lives trying to anger people on the computer? Hint: They don't leave the house much. That, or they're immature. Or 12 years old. Either way, you just have to think to yourself, "Who cares? It's only the internet. I'm better than this moron, anyway". Following this one simple rule will prevent your feelings from being hurt. Even worse however, is getting angry. This rule will also keep your anger at bay. No one likes being angry. Especially while they sit at their computer wasting time browsing the internet!