How much of it is just an act? How much does it actually matter? How much empathy should we feel when we read something that genuinely seems like a cry for help, when the entire premise of modern-day trolling is that the internet is just a giant game of make-believe, and you’re a fool to do more than point and laugh?
None of this is encouraging, especially when you know that just mentioning it puts you in the crosshairs, too. It doesn’t prove that there’s some hidden decency to reach or some way to impose offline consequences (I haven’t looked up anything about these people’s real identities, and I don’t plan to.) It doesn’t prove anything about what kind of person does this, because someone’s web presence doesn’t necessarily indicate much about their everyday lives. All it proves is that this isn’t some barrage of throwaway insults in a vacuum. Given enough time, whether it’s created out of deep resentment or teenage thoughtlessness or deliberate, sociopathic calculation, even the most one-dimensional troll mask can start to come alive.