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.