One of the offshoot pleasures of angry commenting seems to be getting angry at the other angry commenters. There is an element of what one might call socializing, a sort of happy hour of nastiness and sniping. Is this joyful little flash of human friction and fraternizing the best they can hope for? As one non-angry commenter writes to some other angry commenters: “I’m sorry your life is so empty that you find it necessary to try and pick fights with random strangers on the Internet.”

This raises the question of whether the commenter is basically normal in their daily life. Maybe she is a school teacher who is sweet to kindergarteners during the day, and then, on a Sunday afternoon secretly releases her anger at the unsuspecting world? Is the person who writes, “Move out of the city—seriously—there are too many of you idiot—think you are so sophisticated and special—narcissistic personality disordered yahoos already here I could puke” perfectly polite to the old lady blocking their way in a drugstore aisle? My guess is that the angry commenter is functional, loving, and peaceable in his daily life, and it is only in the comments section that his darkest fury is unleashed (though I could be wrong). In this model one could argue that comments sections are fulfilling an important social function, a kind of collective unconscious that allows the commenter to voice and play out their worst impulses so they can be civilized in their actual lives.

It is possible, though, that there is just more bitterness out there than we realized before the Internet brought us closer to people’s rawest, quickest, uncensored thoughts.