If you just pay casual attention to these digital beatdowns, you might find them satisfying, or funny, or just something to shrug at and go, "Oh, Internet, you vicious rascal, you." But there's something terrifying going on just beneath the surface ...
We've Turned Destroying People Into A Drug
Scientists have actually spent an enormous amount of time and brain-dollars trying to understand revenge. We've learned that contemplating revenge affects the brain in a similar manner as nicotine or cocaine, but we tend to feel worse after getting our vengeance. The exception seems to be when "the offender understands [revenge] as a response to his or her prior behavior," according to one study.
What the internet's given us is the chance to focus solely on the "good" parts of revenge: the joyous plotting and catharsis of seeing a bad person suffer for their crimes, but with none of the depressing downsides. It's easy to, say, spam the Yelp page of a lion-shooting dentist and feel good for a minute.
This has nothing to do with teeth.
The man did a Bad Thing, and hundreds of people got to help punish him from the comfort of their homes and then move on to the next thing the internet dropped in front of them. The guy who shot Cecil the Lion was a dick, but it's kind of horrifying that the people who unraveled his life did it in between posting snarky YouTube comments and sending Snapchats of their genitals. We've turned the complex psychological process of wreaking vengeance into just another one of the dozens of social media "highs" we get throughout the day.