When we place ourselves out there on the Internet, on social media and in comments sections and maybe even in overwritten reviews of TV comedies, we’re not really placing “ourselves” out there. We’re placing the version of ourselves that we want the world to see, the version that’s cooler or smarter or funnier than the real human being making those posts. We are, in some sense, reducing ourselves to fictional characters, less susceptible to pain or anger, at least until people needle at us, and we act as if that needling is directly attacking our core selves, instead of just some projection we’ve made to get more popular online. And that can turn destructive! The version of myself who writes these reviews is very different from the version who posts on Twitter, and both of those guys are nothing like the real me, who has insecurities and doubts and fears that the Internet doesn’t want to hear about. Yet the wish to be liked (or “liked”) is all-pervasive. I would gladly wear a party hat if you guys would give me some upvotes.
Or, put another way, think of these comments, and how so many of you used to freak out at the notion of downvoting (before Disqus took away the ability to see how many people had downvoted you—which I think was the right call). Or think of maybe when you make a post on Twitter, and nobody interacts with it, or when you say something on Tumblr, and nobody reblogs it, or, heaven forfend, when you post a cat picture on Facebook, and nobody cares. None of us wants to feel like we are all alone in the universe, calling out to nobody in particular. And the Internet has made it that much easier to find communities of people we feel like we belong with. But it’s also made it that much easier to hide the pieces of ourselves we don’t really like from those people, when even the act of sharing your deepest, darkest secrets can be a kind of performance art. There are both good and bad sides to this, but when somebody breaks the compact—when they don’t notice you or downvote you without saying why or just generally behave like assholes—it makes it that much harder to react without going Vesuvius all over the place.
—Todd VanDerWerff, the AV Club