One guy got a shock when he realized the YouTube video being passed around Facebook was of a childhood friend. Our perspective changes when the human cartoon we laugh at is someone real — or even ourselves.
In this writer's case, the wake-up call came in the form of childhood friend Neil Lansing — whom you may know as the guy who tried to smuggle 30 things into prison in his anal cavity and launched a thousand easy jokes. Writes Luke O'Neil,
Most of us are Internet bullies now, some of us more active than others. Spend any time online, and you'll recognize that the worst way to react to stories like this, or anything else embarrassing, is to defend yourself or the people you know. There's always some sap in the comments saying, "This isn't funny, that's a real person with real feelings." Well, yeah, but they aren't my feelings, so ... To show such concern on the Internet is a sign of weakness; it's called being "butthurt." (Yes, I know.) Now I've found myself in the awkward position of being butthurt myself. I'm acting like troll bait, and it's an uncomfortable place to be.
What O'Neil takes away from the story is unclear — he as good as admits that he's unlikely to change his stranger-mocking ways — but the point of his story is. The truth is, a certain toughness is necessary to inhabit the world of the Internet, or you'd be crying all the time. But that's different from cruelty. And sometimes it takes knowing one of those faces to see the difference. What this piece reminds us is that, eventually, statistically, we or someone we know is going to be publicly humiliated — on the Internet, on a reality show, in a blog. What will we do with that knowledge? There are worse things than being "troll bait" — keeping in mind that "trolls" are actually people, too; we can't have it both ways.
Remembrance Of Things Assed [Slate]