Living Among Internet Trolls
In the digital age, it's become a very human thing to say (and do) very inhumane things, especially when you can be one of those anonymous Internet trolls.

In the digital age, it’s become a very human thing to say (and do) very inhumane things, especially when you can be one of those anonymous Internet trolls.

For people who concern themselves with the state of civilized society, trolls dwelling on — or at the very least frequenting regularly — social-media platforms and comment sections represent the baser aspects of humanity. Hence the unflatteringly moniker “trolls.

Creepy little gals and guys who spend every waking hour, when not consumed by the humdrum necessity of working dead-end jobs, tapping away at their keyboards while living in the basements of their respective parents, trolling the web with the dedicated purpose of stirring the collective pot with an onslaught of mean-spirited, shitty comments …

Well, I might be paraphrasing a bit here, but that’s how I’ve heard pundits describe the men and women lashing out and hurting feelings from the comfort and safety of nameless avatars and digital alter egos. Some high-profile individuals, like actor and writer Ricky Gervais, engage with these cave dwellers on a regular basis, while others, like Louis C.K. (who as of this writing has quit Twitter) —  rather than dig into the reasons behind why the basement goblins of the world castigate all they read online in the most vile manner they can contrive — simply don’t want to contribute to instant online dialogues representing people’s worst sides.

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about comments and tweets heaping praise or cute and funny observations about what a particular writer happens to be saying. I’m talking about people who leave hateful, spiteful, racist and intolerant comments that fester like radioactive pus leaking from gaping stomach wounds. You know, observations that would make Hitler wipe his brow and say, “Hold on just a moment. There are limits, you know.”

Let’s be honest. Most of us do look at the comments section now and then. I try not to, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Usually I want to check in on what others have to say about a certain topic and see if the general consensus falls in line with my own feelings on the matter. Sometimes I just want to find out how nasty people can be, but then, after satisfying my craving for identifying wanton depravity, I’ll feel a little sad. Sad that I wasted my time — and sad that people can be so narrow-minded and incredibly unkind. And then I won’t look at any of that crap for a long time … until, eventually, I do.

Originally, I was going to suggest we ignore Internet trolls forever. But then I realized that while some of those numbering among the most sadistic commentators alive inevitably do live their lives tucked away in damp basements, many are our colleagues (next cubicle over), loving mothers and fathers, well-known media types talking out of their asses under false names and the heads of international corporations (ruthless behavior is probably how they got the job in the first place) — all reveling in the power of verbally projected, anonymous schadenfreude.

While I don’t like this side of my species in the slightest, I’ve come to understand that it’s very human to say (and do) inhumane things. Some, perhaps many, even enjoy it. My small hope is that if people have to type hateful comments online, a kind of catharsis occurs inside their hearts and minds — and maybe they’ll spread a little less hate in their real lives.

Carl Pettit is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.

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