The internet has taught us a number of things about human beings:
- Weirdness is way more well-distributed than we used to admit or believe.
- Groups of people can achieve pretty incredible things acting in concert, across vast distances, like building and refining the OS I’m using.
- Unpopular is simply a different value of popular.
There are some uncomfortable truths mixed in there, too, though. One of them is the following:
- Some people are unrepentantly, irredeemably assholes… and the more anonymous they are, the more they allow their nature to show.
At least, this is the insight I’ve gained from my brushes with trolls all over the Net–by which I mean not just people who happen to be having a bad day and act out temporarily (we’ve all been there, I’d guess) but people who make a habit, hobby, or even a lifestyle out of it.
The insight I’d push that further to is this one: large numbers of human beings are nowhere near as well-balanced, emotionally and mentally, as our cultures and legal systems suggest. Once you reconcile yourself to that, human history makes a lot more sense. You stop asking, “Why do normally sane people go along with things like genocide?” because, hey, it’s so much less inexplicable when you admit that, yeah, lots and lots of people are kinda crazy from the get-go. Maybe not crazy like the troll in the bridge above, but fundamentally not so healthy, and prone to shocking patterns of thinking (and, in connection with that, some pretty despicable actions).
Which is an interesting, if troubling, insight. I’m not sure what to do with it, besides being somewhat troubled by it.