4 Signs You Need to Spend Less Time Online

As someone who works from home selling novelty heroin syringes on Silk Road, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. On the whole, it's pretty great -- I'm exposed to a wide variety of people and information every day, and I help junkies get the Inspector Gadget-themed high they've craved for years. But all good things must be enjoyed in moderation, and I've noticed a few weird attitudes that develop when you spend too much time online. If you find yourself experiencing any of the following, it's time to get some fresh air.

#4. You Begin to Wonder If People You Meet Are Trolls

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I have an unhealthy fascination with comment sections. There are some intelligent ones out there, and most Cracked commenters are pretty alright (except BonerLorde420 ... you know what you've done). But as a general rule, they're cesspools of hatred and anger, and browsing them is the closest we can legally come to opening human zoos.

But, as Nietzsche wrote in his junior high years, when you gaze too long into an asshole, the asshole also gazes into you. I don't mean that you start acting like a racist, sexist douchebag, because while I do troll the other Cracked columnists under the name Sore N Bone Me, that's an unrelated hobby. I mean that you stop viewing Internet commenters as a writhing mass of personified rage and start viewing them as presumably functional members of society with jobs and hobbies and loved ones they probably don't want to see butt-raped by a dozen fat dudes with swords (like they keep saying they hope happens to other people).

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"And that's why you deserve to get cancerAIDS and drown in a urine flood."

You start making up little stories for them to convince yourself that they're just good people having bad days, because the alternative -- that they have a toxic, sociopathic attitude towards humanity 24/7 and keep it hidden beneath a thin veneer of respectability -- is too depressing. Maybe the guy ranting about how all women are soul-sucking harpies just went through an ugly breakup. Maybe the guy screaming "nuke ISIS ragheads!" lost his entire family and several puppies to terrorist attacks, and also isn't very smart. Maybe the guy calling me a "cocksucking super fag" is optimistically hitting on me the only way he knows how.

But, eventually, you start wondering if the people you come across in real life Meatworld troll the Internet in their spare time. Does the friend of a friend I had a cool conversation about video games with go home and scream rape threats into a beer-spittled microphone? Did the co-worker who said something a little homophobic just have an ignorant slip of the tongue, or does she spend her nights on news sites ranting about how gays are the modern black plague?

Alexandru Kacso/iStock/Getty Images
"Thou shall not judge! Except in this case, where it's perfectly fine!"

This is not a thought exercise I'd recommend, because there's no way to get an answer. Between sheer statistical probability and the assumption that you know your friends well, you'd like to think the obvious answer is they aren't a troll. But there's always a little nagging doubt, and you can't exactly ask someone, "Hey, are you an uninformed, ignorant, attention whore on the Internet?" without damaging your relationship. The only solution is to spend less time reading comment sections and more time watching cat videos until your brain stops asking such weird questions in the first place.

Via YouTube
Goddammit.

#3. You Start Making Sweeping Assumptions

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One of the most powerful features of the Internet is anonymity. If it wasn't for the Internet, a young white guy like me would never have been able to adopt the personality of a stereotypical, sassy black woman for my writing career.

But listen up, girlfriend, because there's a downside. Now I ain't talking about men that are always sending us pictures of their Johnson like they think they're God's gift to women, because girl, if that's the best God's got for us, I'm becoming a Buddhist. Nuh-uh, I'm referring to the fact that you start making assumptions about other anonymous people, like you think you're better than them just cause you don't work down at the hairdressers no more. And you know what they say about assumptions. Yes, you do.

Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images
Ah, my newest batch of cease and desist orders from the NAACP arrived!

When I'm chatting with Dikachu69 about the latest Smash Bros. game I automatically assume he's another young, straight, white dude, because in my mind I'm the quintessential Internet junkie. But for all I know, he might be a black woman in her late-30s who didn't appreciate my little Vaudeville routine, although that's awfully judgmental coming from someone with such a crude name, lady.

My point is that when you're having conversations with people you can't look at, you assume they're like you until they prove otherwise. It's easy to forget that there are in fact multiple races and genders and age groups out there, because if you don't see any middle-aged black women in your day-to-day life, you assume they all have real jobs and mature hobbies that don't involve spending a lot of time on gamer forums. They probably all knit or something.

This messes with your head in little ways. You forget that the knitting, profanity-spewing video game fan is probably going to have a different way of looking at say, events in Ferguson or Tyler Perry's career. You both might completely agree that Perry's movies are terrible, but there's a good chance you arrived at your opinions in different ways because of your differing backgrounds and perspectives on life.

Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Mine being that I'm so terribly, terribly lonely.

It's also easy to start seeing the Internet as a hive mind that spits out definitive decrees like "Gone Girl was a solid movie despite its flaws" or "The parents of this suicide victim deserve to have gay porn posted on their Facebook page," because you start to confuse the loudest vocal opinion for the opinion of everyone. You have to stop and remind yourself that you aren't the only person who hates trolls, or that it's okay to have no opinion or interest in a movie about marriage because you're planning to die alone and unloved. Constant anonymity can make you forget just how much variety there is in people, and that's a little sad. Speaking of which ...

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