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...
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.