As we get more connected online, the haters of the world become more empowered. I am often astonished at some of the brazen behavior I see in comments and on forums by people who, one assumes, are functioning people in real life.
I think a key ingredient is narcisism. i cant think of any other explanation for someone who puts effort into trying to upset other people while their own identities are just a bit of Google-Fu away. If you’ve ever read an article on someone before, there’s inevitably anonymous trolls who say unbelievably nasty things about them. Of course, they do so because they think they're anonymous.
Imagine if their ugly behavior was quoted and attached to their “real name” when you Googled them? I suspect we’d see a change in behavior pretty quickly.
I have mixed feelings on anonymity on the Internet. On the one hand, I’ve seen people make threats against me, my wife and occasionally even against my kids. So I am very conscious of how vulnerable we are to the worst humanity has to offer. On the other hand, I can’t help but notice that the worst behavior is usually done by people who think that they’re safe from retaliation because they think they’re anonymous.
So I’m not sure what should be done. Almost everyone reading this has dealt (or at least observed) a persistent Internet troll. You can ban them but they’ll be back. As trolling becomes more common and increasingly nastier, it’s an issue that’s going to have to be addressed somehow. Having seen the slow evolution of the Internet troll over the past 20 years, I can tell you, the ability to inflict harm on people is growing. Sooner or later, it’s going to have to be dealt with.