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It's fascinating how vastly different people act in real life versus online. It's like all our normal emotions, reactions, and desires are blasted through the dick end of a fire hose -- nothing filtered, nothing held back, the pressure cranked up to Rambo-washing levels. It's no secret what causes it: Eye-to-eye, personal contact is the wall that holds back 90 percent of our worst impulses (even on the phone, there's a voice connection that can convey tone, reminding you that the droning idiot on the other end is an actual human). But remove that contact while keeping the ability to communicate, and we just turn into ridiculous children.

We Now Have Disposable (And Fragile) Friends

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In Real Life:

I am fortunate enough to have a diverse range of friends in my life. I have frequently sat in rooms full of Christians and atheists, democrats and republicans, and people from each side of every major issue you could dream up. We've spoken peacefully and respectfully. We have also had heated arguments that needed to be broken up before someone got stabbed with their own shoe. But we never let our specific beliefs dictate our bonds because there are enough traits that overlap to hold us together. That diversity is what makes us dynamic and gives our group its unique features. I would never, ever want to be in a group of friends who are all exactly like me. I'd set us on fire by the end of one conversation.

But on the 'net ...

This is the "I disagree with your last comment" button:

And this is the "I get the last word" button:

I know this because, though he doesn't do it much anymore, one of my favorite things used to be watching Gladstone point out the number of followers he lost upon making a joke about a band or show that some of his followers liked. I loved the fact that up until that point, they were totally fine with every hard-edged joke he made about recently dead celebrities or religion or just poking the beehive with a stick. But if he dropped even one innocent jab about a show that nerds decided to swarm around in a perpetual circle jerk, they'd drop out by the dozens like he just posted photos of their mothers doing anal with a horse.

Seriously, imagine that in real life. You start hanging around someone new, and you're getting to know them pretty well. They're funny, they have interesting things to say -- you could definitely be friends. Then one day, they make a joke about how the white-haired chick from Game of Thrones should really fuck one of those dragons before they get too big and she physically can't anymore. You know ... because of all the fucking in that show. Then without a word, you just stand up and walk out of the room, never to be heard from again. No follow-up conversation explaining why. No bullshit talk about why you can't be friends anymore. You just walk away like that person never existed.

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"Wait, you packed? You don't even live here!"

But because of this weirdass type of social connection, that's now a regular thing. "Friends" are a statistic -- a definitive, representable number -- and your goal as the owner of your page is to collect as many as you can like fucking Pokemon. When that number gets to a certain level, losing one doesn't much matter. What's the difference between 499 and 500 at that point? The dude said Battlestar Galactica is boring. I can't listen to a single word he says beyond that sentence. He has to go.

The Approval of Total Strangers Becomes an Outright Need

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In Real Life:

Regardless of what all the family sitcoms taught us about the opinions of strangers (and the not-giving-a-shit thereof), there are still times in your life where you do need to make a good impression on people you're likely to never see again. Campaigning for class president, petitioning a council for a business permit, convincing a jury that you're not the "stabbing" type of dude they're making you out to be. And even in the nonformal sense, if your kid is being a screaming piece of shit in a movie theater and you do nothing to stop it, every person in that building wants to see you severely injured. The embarrassment you feel as you grit your teeth and pull the little bastard back up the aisle is a direct result of being rejected and hated by your fellow man.

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And why you have to explain to your husband why you relapsed back to heroin again.

But on the 'net ...

Not long ago, I decided to start following people who regularly interact with me on Twitter. It's a big step for me because up until then, I never followed more than 10 to 15 people at a time, and most of those were people I knew personally. Following strangers is a big risk because, holy shit, what if they type something I don't agree with?

Now for me, follower count doesn't mean much because I have my column here on Cracked, and those "view" numbers are what define my literal worth as a writer. So it came as a bit of a shock to me when I realized how many people really do put massive amounts of value into things like that and retweets. For instance, one of the people I follow retweeted this from one of their friends, and I jumped on the first joke that popped into my head because I'm an asshole who automatically assumes everything I read on social media was written by an adult who can infer my intended tone in a text message.

I responded with:

Yes, now that I know I was responding to a 15-year-old girl, I feel 10 kinds of creepy and gross. Especially when she took obvious, justified offense to the reply. All she was wanting was a little bit of attention and validation, and I shit on her attempt.

And this is what's so weird about this current generation of early teens with this kind of easy access to a massive audience. It's developed a need for their acceptance to be measured by a quantifiable number. For this particular girl, that number is 100. What if we gave her 10,000? I don't mean that as a social experiment or thought exercise. I mean if I so easily put her on the defensive by making one dumb joke, imagine how happy it would make that girl to wake up today and find that her retweet request had been fulfilled a hundred times over.

Is that desire for mass acceptance a good or a bad thing? I don't know ... the adult in me has a natural knee-jerk reaction to reject the idea because it's a massive change over what I grew up with. The logic side of me says, "You are literally able to pay your rent because you were able to gain mass acceptance of total strangers." But the thing is, I am in the entertainment industry -- not a 15-year-old girl, just looking for validation.

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OK, so I actually am a teenage girl. What's it take for a chick to get a little goddamn validation around here?

But like it or not, every form of social media has this rating system in place, and it's pretty obvious that people love the idea. "Did you like what I said? Did you agree with my comment? Did you enjoy this video of my cat?" Every comment, creative project, and passing thought gets immediate feedback and a numerical rating. At the very least, I hope it's a good idea because it sure as hell isn't going anywhere.

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We Demand (And Receive) Apologies from Celebrities

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In Real Life:

Let's skip back almost 25 years to 1989. Andrew Dice Clay was supposed to introduce Cher at the MTV Video Music Awards. She was running behind because she's Cher, so they asked Clay to fill some time. He did one of his then-famous "adult nursery rhymes" -- specifically: "Jack Sprat could eat no fat. His wife could eat no lean. So Jack ignored her flabby tits and licked her asshole clean."

He was banned for life ... "life" in this case meaning "until 2011," when they invited him back for another awards show. His entire career was built on this offensive character, and he baited press and activist groups constantly until he was selling out 20,000-seat arenas based on the publicity they had ironically drummed up for him. Here's the point ...

At no point in his career did he ever have to stop and hold a press conference to apologize to the public for something he'd said or done, which is crazy because his entire act was purposely misogynistic. Not just that, but any protesting backlash came from the media because the public had no means to "unleash demands" upon him. He just did his act, and if people liked it, they liked it. And if they hated it, it didn't matter; he'd just move on to the next show and continue working, his act unmodified and unaffected by public input.

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
His jacket growing ever angrier.

But on the 'net ...

Flash forward to 2007 when Alec Baldwin lost his shit and reamed his daughter's ass over a voicemail. He didn't do it in public. He didn't release the voicemail to the press, himself. It was a private call to his daughter's phone that ended up all over the 'net. Was he wrong in this situation? Was he justified? Was it bad parenting? Should he be punished for it? Here's the answer to all of those questions:

None of our fucking business. It doesn't matter what we think. The harsh, no bullshit truth is that he doesn't owe us a solitary second of explanation for a goddamn thing. Yet, he still made a public apology about it. He had to. Because in this day and age, if you don't you're fucked as a celebrity, and we know that as an audience. So now, it's become commonplace for us to not only expect them, but demand them when a celebrity says something we don't like or expresses a belief that we don't agree with. Or rips up your 8-year-old's sign at a WWE event, fully in character the way all heels do at every goddamn show.

Via TMZ.com
Holy shit, how did TMZ pull off that exclusive story?

Before the Internet -- hell, for that matter, before social networking sites -- if you were to respond to a celebrity's behavior or comments with a demand for an immediate and personal apology, they'd never be able to tell you to go fuck yourself because of their uncontrollable, unrelenting laughter. Now it's the standard.

We Break Shit So Others Can't Use It

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In Real Life:

I've met plenty of vandals in my life. When I was in the sixth grade, my bus pulled up to the school, and all the kids were treated to a 15-foot spray-painted penis with the caption "Coach Ray sucks cock" on the front of the building. One of my cousins once got in shitloads of trouble for throwing a cinder block through a grocery store window. He didn't steal anything. He just decided he needed to do that and then did it. In my experience, it's almost always teenage boys who do this dumb bullshit. It's like once you hit a certain age, something flips a biological "dickhead" switch, and how you manage that beast determines your financial and legal future.

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Once used epoxy resin to glue all of their art teachers belongings to his desk.

But on the 'net ...

The big difference I've noticed between real life and online vandalism is that in real life, it was mostly just destruction for the sake of destruction. School wasn't closed because of a spray-painted pecker. The store didn't stop selling pickles and asswipe while the window was being replaced. But on the Internet, it's different. When someone vandalizes a Twitter account or a Facebook page, that shit gets shut down until the mess gets cleaned up.

I get told all the time that Cracked has one of the best comments sections on the Internet, but that isn't solely because dumbasses choose to stay out of there. It's because behind the scenes, we have real administrators spending real, paid company time to clean up the dumb bullshit from spammers, bots, and trolls. Since the articles don't have an expiration date, it means they have to bounce in and out of them all day long to make sure we don't have some bored dipshit spamming walls of text with the sole intention of making the comments unreadable (yes, that's a real example and one of the most common things our admins have to clean up). Or some butt-hurt crybaby bitch who takes out his frustrations on a new writer because he never got his own article published (another thing the admins have to remove quite literally every article, every day of the week).

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"Your article sucks, and if I ever get one published, I'll show you how a real writer does it! Some day!"

Now don't get me wrong here. I bag on the comments section enough as is, and this isn't one of those times. I'm telling you this to make a point: that even in one of the more civilized, behaved comments sections on the 'net, there is still rampant fuckery that demands the attention of an employee who could be getting paid to create comedy rather than clean shit off of the floor.

That kind of vandalism is almost unique in that it's extremely common and is designed specifically to prevent others from creating or consuming. In Meatspace, that's punishable by fines, community service, and sometimes jail sentences. On the 'net, it's just accepted as further proof that we're not worthy of mainstream acceptance. We're just those crazy Internet people who like to destroy the things that others create.

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We Thrive on Grandstanding

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In Real Life:

Have you ever quit a job in mid-shift? I've done it myself, and I've seen probably 20 others do it at various past jobs. You just hit that breaking point where the paycheck isn't worth the pain, exhaustion and bullshit, so you decide, "Fuck this, they can comb their own monkeys." Also, you worked in a pet factory as a monkey comber. So you clock out for lunch or your next break, drive home and drown the rest of your night in 40-ounce Mickey's. You can worry about a new job tomorrow.

What I've never seen someone do is bust down their manager's door and make a dramatic push for worker equality, nailing down one final defiant statement that the company will never forget. Because their departure from the assembly line means something.

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
"Great. Now what am I supposed to do with this shipment of fresh, uncombed monkeys?"

But on the 'net ...

That "leave without anyone noticing" is actually a rarity on the net. If you've ever moderated or fully ran your own forum, one of the biggest inside jokes you've likely had with other moderators is the dumb jackoffs who demand that their account be deleted. It's almost always in response to a moderator enforcing a rule like "no bumping your own post" or deleting something they wrote because it was flat out against the forum rules. Like maybe it had homemade animated Legolas porn or something ... because you just can't let go of that goddamn movie.

I used to be horrible about this back in my early Internet years. Back then, I'd been known to get drunk and delete my entire website or forum accounts without notice or explanation. The sudden dramatic disappearance got me attention. "What's wrong? Are you OK? I couldn't imagine what would make you do something so drastic -- it must be huge. Is there anything we can do?" I could have easily just walked away from it while I destressed and then came back a month or two later, site and forum account still intact, but that wouldn't have been grand enough to get a reaction from people.

Understand, that was never at the front of my mind. I never went into it, consciously thinking, "I need some attention and someone to show me that they care. The best way to do that is to destroy everything that made strangers interested in me in the first place. Here I go." It was always just a feeling that I needed something big and dramatic to happen in my life, and when that never presented itself, I created my own. And as the Internet becomes more of a social playground, you see it all over the place. Two dudes get into a tiff, and one of them ends the confrontation with, "Fuck you. You're an arrogant prick. Feel free to block me now, asshole." He couldn't just walk away. He couldn't just sever the relationship by quietly blocking the other guy, himself. He had to create a situation in which he gets the last word and pretends to walk away while forcing the other guy to "do the dirty work."

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Yeah, we get it -- you're leaving. Fuck off. Nobody cares.

This is the single biggest area of self improvement I've been working on in the last year, and it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to change about myself: being able to just cut off ties with someone without throwing in the last word or having to feel like I won some sort of imaginary fight. I've still not mastered it. I may never be fully able to because that urge to fight is a trait that goes clear to my core. But I'm trying because the logical part of my head organ tells me that if I don't do something about it, that shit will eat me alive.

John is a columnist right here at Cracked and has a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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