The Internet makes people crazy. We all know this. The guy on the message board who just called you a shitclown for owning a different video game console than him probably would have been perfectly polite had you met in real life.
In fact, we're thinking it's time they updated the psychological diagnostic manuals with this list of new disorders that only seem to kick in once the person opens a web browser.
6Online Intermittent Explosive Disorder (a.k.a. The Thin-Skinned Rage-o-holic)
Like serial killers, these people seem pretty normal at first. For hours or even days, they'll carry on funny, charming conversations in a forum or comment section. But then something, anything, sets him off and he devolves into a tantrum that would make Christian Bale say, "Dude, calm down! Jesus."
In Real Life it's Called...
Out in the real world, IED is an impulse control disorder that can make a person act like their entire family has been murdered just because Burger King forgot to put their fries in the bag. They're prone to fits of uncontrollable rage in situations that don't call for it.
This guy just found out the movie he wanted to go to is sold out.
And while it only affects around six percent of people in real life, on the Internet you run into one of these in almost every comment section. And nothing sets them off like a mild hit to their ego:
IED Guy: Hey guys I made this Photoshop, can I get some constructive criticism?
Normal poster: You might want to cut six or seven of the lens flares.
IED Guy: FUCK YOU YOU COMMUNIST FUCKTARD. I HAVE WON AWARDS FOR MY WORK WHILE YOU WERE BUSY JERKING OFF IN YOUR PARENTS BASEMENT AND PLAYING DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS-
(This continues for 2,000 words or so).
A simultaneously hilarious and disturbing example of this made internet headlines in mid-June, when somebody emailed a congressman's office and accidentally referred to his assistant Elizabeth as "Liz," prompting an explosion of 19 furious emails in which Elizabeth demanded that she be called by her full name.
So Why Does it Happen on the Internet?
First, there's the obvious: Most of us suppress our real-life spurts of rage for fear of getting punched in the face by the person we're screaming at. Second, on the Internet, where your looks, job, income and fancy clothes won't buy you any respect, some people seem to think they have to protect their reputation like an old west gunslinger: shooting down anybody who calls them out.
But then there's the third, and least obvious reason, which is that without tone of voice and body language, it's hard to convey mere annoyance or mild anger, without the fear that the person you're conveying it to just plain won't notice. So they think they have to crank it up to a 10 every time they're crossed, even if they don't mean it.
That's probably the weirdest part, that these people who are SCREAMING INSULTS IN ALL CAPS are often at the same time sitting in a cubicle somewhere, sipping coffee and conversing pleasantly with the person next to them.