I’ve also found that I can be drawn into ridiculous pissing matches online in ways that just wouldn’t happen otherwise, and I’ve never noticed any benefit. There is never a lesson learned, or a catharsis of victory or defeat. If you win anonymously, no one knows, and if you lose, you just change your pseudonym and start over, without having modified your point of view one bit.
If the troll is anonymous and the target is known, then the dynamic is even worse than an encounter between anonymous fragmentary pseudo-people. That’s when the hive turns against personhood….
When I criticize this type of online culture, I am often accused of being either an old fart or an advocate of censorship. Neither is the case. I don’t think I’m necessarily any better, or more moral, than the people who tend the lulzy websites. What I’m saying, though, is that the user interface designs that arise from the ideology of the computing cloud make people-all of us-less kind. Trolling is not a string of isolated incidents, but the status quo in the online world.