6 New Personality Disorders Caused by the Internet

6 New Personality Disorders Caused by the Internet

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.

Online 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...

Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

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.

(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.

Low Forum Frustration Tolerance (a.k.a. The Frantic Browser Reloader)

This is the guy who makes a new thread, knowing he's just written the absolutely perfect post. A post that should be heralded across the Internet for its beauty, comedy and insight. It is such a good post that the guy is checking every five seconds to see if there is a new response. If he gets a response he quickly dashes out his own reply that will appear half a second later.

If there are no responses to his perfect post then he will wait an eternity of five minutes before replying to his own thread with, "What, nobody has a comment? Helloooo???"

You may also find this guy submitting stories to news portals like Digg and Reddit, losing an entire workday hitting Refresh (or F5) over and over, waiting for somebody, anybody, to digg up his submission.

In Real Life it's Called...

Low Frustration Tolerance.

LFT is defined as a person seeking immediate gratification or the avoidance of immediate pain. At first this sounds like the behavior of any whiny seven-year-old who wants a toy and will scream and pump his fat little arms until he gets what he wants. But unlike a kid, a quick smack to the back of the head won't shut this guy up.

Someone with LFT is so obsessed with their current project that everything else in their life stops. It's actually a form of procrastination, the obsession with that (often utterly inconsequential) object allows them to neglect their work, or girlfriend, or their dog that shits in the corner of the bedroom because it hasn't been walked in the last 10 hours.

So Why Does it Happen on the Internet?

There never has been an engine for instant gratification like the Internet. Our parents thought television killed our attention spans, but hell, with TV you still had to wait for the shows to come on, and they played at their own pace. On the Internet, the videos start when you fucking tell them to. If they don't, off to another site. It's like a faucet: you turn the knob and you expect an immediate flow of lolcats.

It trains all of us to be impatient. And it's easy for the impatient to start looking at fellow posters or Diggers as just more pieces of content, morsels that need to be delivered the instant we want them. And why wouldn't we? This is a place where we can get a girl to strip for us on a webcam for like three bucks.

Munchausen by Internet (a.k.a. The Sob Story Teller)

These are the people who lurk around innocently enough, and then, one day, tragedy strikes. Their dog, or parent, or maybe a close friend died. Maybe the poster themselves found out they have a terminal disease. And unless you're on 4chan, the group will generally rally around and shower them with sympathy. You send this person your prayers and well wishes, maybe a few dozen kitten pictures and you hope they will get through it.

Then, a few months later, another tragedy strikes them. Their best friend was raped, or paralyzed in an accident, or both. A few months after that, their father dies. Again.

"I can't wait to tell the Internet."

Soon it becomes apparent that they are either living under an ancient Egyptian curse, or they're making it all up.

It's so common that somebody else has already coined the sarcastic term for it: Munchausen by Internet.

In Real Life it's Called...

Munchausen Syndrome.

The basis of need here is the same as the attention-seekers above, only these people will only settle for the positive and sympathetic attention that comes with being sick or some other kind of distress. You know, without the whole "actually being sick" thing to bog them down.

Yeah, my house is on fire right now, it totally sucks.

In real life they can keep it up for years, because society doesn't make it easy to be skeptical in these situations. If you cast doubt on them and then later discover it was in fact true, suddenly you're the biggest douche on the planet.

So Why Does it Happen on the Internet?

As easy as it is to pull off in real life, it's 10 time easier online where there's no simple way to fact-check the claims. So it doesn't take a balls-out liar or con man to pull it off. Hell, all you need to do is know how to type, and you have access to that same outpouring of sympathy all Munchausen sufferers get addicted to.

A famous case of cyberMuching was that of Kaycee Nicole, a 19-year-old with Leukemia who turned out to have been created by 40-year-old Debbie Swenson. The Kaycee character posted daily for two years in a online journal about her struggle to live with her illness. She then "died" and only when there was no funeral people did people figure out it had all been a hoax.

And even then, Swenson could keep doing it elsewhere if she so pleased. She may be out doing it right now. On the anonymous Internet, you can create a dozen different characters and when one of them starts to get boring the "parent" can just kill them off. This is clinically known as the LOST approach.

Online Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (a.k.a. The Grammar Nazi)

We all reserve the right to mock people who post 500-word blocks of misspelled nonsense. But then you have the situation where somebody posts a perfectly clear and clever message but within their well-articulated points they dare to confuse "your" with "you're." And then somebody will flip the fuck out.

Like a Mossad agent in rural America, you quickly discover that you've found a Nazi. Of the Grammar variety.

In Real Life it's Called...

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, or OCPD.

OCPD should not be confused with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (or, "The OC Disorder"). OCPD shares the obsessive component of OCD, but it is different from OCD in that OCPD has the letter P in its name. That and people with OCPD do not perform the weird ritualistic actions of OCD'ers, like opening a door four times or having to always eat Pringles with the concave side up.

OCPD types simply have an incredibly strict standard by which certain tasks be done, to the point that it literally can lead to violence otherwise.

So Why Does it Happen on the Internet?

At the heart of the real-life OCPD sufferer seems to be an irrational fear that the rest of the world is sloppier, dirtier and more disorganized than it should be, that it's rapidly getting worse, and that the world will fall to pieces unless someone straightens it up.

On the Internet, five minutes spent reading YouTube comments can convince even an average, level-headed person that the Internet is about to suffer the same fate. The old-fashioned holdouts who insist on typing in actual sentences see what seems to be an inexorable move toward a language based entirely on texting abbreviations. It's not hard to feel the desire to take up arms to defend language at all costs. Srsly.

Low Cyber Self-Esteem (a.k.a. The Guy Who Everyone Hates but Who Never Leaves)

There's a place for everyone on the Internet to feel at home. When you can fill a message board with fans of The Wonder Years porn, there should be no such thing as an outcast.

Yet, each forum, chat room or other online community seems to have a person or people who just don't fit in. It's not that they are necessarily horrible people, they're just the square trying to fit into the triangle hole. They get ridiculed constantly.

Now you may figure this is no different than the picked-on nerd in high school, but unlike that kid always getting squished into a locker, these people are free to leave the website at any time.

But they never do.

In Real Life it's Called...

Self-Abasement and/or Attention Seeking Behavior.

Someone with the need for self-abasement feels that they should be perpetually punished for their wrongdoings. They're like the albino that whipped himself in The Da Vinci Code, only instead of drawing blood they draw "Fuck you noobtard" comments. It's either a subconscious way to feel like they're paying back the world for their sins, or they're just so out of self-esteem that they can't muster the energy to defend themselves.

If taken to an extreme, it can even turn into Online Erotic Humiliation where the abuse turns into sexual arousal. So the next time you tell someone to go fuck themselves, you might have just given them the material to do so.

But maybe more common than that is good ol' Attention Seeking Behavior, which every single person who's ever spent just one evening with a child will be familiar with. The outcast, like the child, knows that hate is not the opposite of love, apathy is. All that negative attention is still attention, and the abuse is still several steps better than being ignored.

So Why Does it Happen on the Internet?

So we've established that when you say, in person, "Jimmy, go away, you're a retard" that Jimmy is just happy that somebody used his name and acknowledged his existence. Even if the only reason you used his name was to tell him to go die in a fire.

"Who's a super fag? Jimmy's a super fag, that's right. Go Jimmy!"

But when you type it on a message board, it's that much better. This isn't just attention, but attention that's being broadcast around the globe via the World Wide Web. The "we hate Jimmy" thread on a popular forum might be read by thousands of people. If that many people are reading about him, he must matter (hell, think of all the TV personalities who have made a career out of being hated).

The attention-seeker gets what he wants, and the self-abaser gets an erection big enough to actually interfere with the signal on his wireless keyboard.

Internet Asperger's Syndrome (a.k.a. The Troll)

We can't take credit for this one, blogger and Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis coined the term "Internet Asperger's Syndrome" to describe the utter loss of all social rules and empathy that seems to hit some people for no other reason than that they happen to be communicating via keyboard and monitor at the time.

We don't need to retell all of the horror stories. A kid commits suicide on webcam while the trolls cheer him on, Anonymous mocks a suicide victim, some kids fire a baby out of a giant slingshot for a YouTube video (we're not sure if that last one actually happened but it's really just a matter of time).

Normal kids, good grades, no criminal records... but get them in a chat room and suddenly it reads like the transcript to a Charles Manson parole hearing.

In Real Life it's Called...

Asperger's Syndrome.

This rarely diagnosed but often claimed disorder is a mild form of Autism that comes with what seems to be a biological inability to show empathy for other human beings, as well as (and maybe stemming from) an inability to recognize nonverbal cues. They continually do weird, upsetting things because they don't know it's upsetting you. That part of their brain is broken.

People cringe when they hear this term because they know that a large number of the teenagers claiming Asperger's are, in fact, merely dicks.

"I have a fucking disease, OK?"

So Why Does it Happen on the Internet?

Calacanis figured out that people who do all of their communicating online wind up mimicking Asperger's behaviors because they are imposing the same disadvantages on themselves. In both cases, when the ability to see nonverbal responses and facial expressions goes away, so does empathy. Soon the thing you're communicating with isn't a person, they're just a bunch of words on a screen. A bunch of words that the little bastard didn't even bother to spellcheck.

When not writing for Cracked, Jonathan writes for TheLastGaffe.com.

To see how we can stop these assholes, check out 5 Ways to Stop Trolls From Killing the Internet. And find out about some the stuff they can pull off, in 8 Awesome Cases of Internet Vigilantism.

Or, visit the Cracked.com Top Picks to see what we're looking at instead of working.

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