What is it about the Internet that makes people act like jerks? (Not you, kind reader; we mean everybody else.) The anonymity granted by comment sections and social media networks often gets blamed, as does the general lack of consequence seen for bad online behavior. A Chinese study from 2013 showed that angrier posts on social media got shared more, meaning there may actually be incentive to being incendiary.
Whatever the reasons, one thing certainly is for sure: being a schmuck online isn’t a new phenomenon. This is evidenced by a 1986 story on “flaming” that appeared in Technology News [PDF], the Illinois Institute of Technology’s old student newspaper:
Technology News // May 5, 1986
Email as you or I know it wasn’t even around back then, as IIT had just installed a rudimentary, intra-campus messaging service. Still, even early adapters to the nascent Internet managed to behave like miserable little twits. Old habits, huh?