I've been online for a long time and I've seen a lot of people go online over the last two decades. One of the first things that a lot of people do when they discover the "freedoms" of the Internet, is to use it as some kind of behavioral sandbox where they can do things that they would not ordinarily be able to. This also includes what we'd term negative, or antisocial behaviors.
The apparent freedom and "distance" from other people that we interact with, create the initial impression that it may be "fun" to break social standards and go "rogue" by doing antisocial things, calling people names, being abusive and other things like that.
For most mentally stable people, this is just a temporary stage. Some will take more time to get over it than others, but eventually most people will tend to align their online expression with their social expression.
There are a few exceptions to this re-alignment rule and one frequent exception is when there's a lot of heated exchanges that one would not ordinarily undertake in a social environment. In real life, whether it's about politics, religion, or any other subject, most people would generally avoid a high-intensity argument and the ensuing friction.
It is well understood that an escalating disagreement on a heated issue might even derail the actual / real life social relationships - with the parties in vicious disagreement experiencing consequences that can range between a lesser perception of the other party, to not even speaking to them again.
These consequences can be considered real-life disincentives that prevent friction-inducing behaviors.
The absence of these disincentives, combined with the "safety" of pseudonymity or distance, can make it far easier to go over the top while "defending our truth".
Meeting the people behind the online mask
I've met hundreds of people who I had online interactions with, either from BBS meetings, forum meetings, club meetings etc. Now, even some who exhibited troll-like behaviors, were not that bad in real-life and I was always glad that I kept my interactions civil, allowing me the later opportunity to better understand them from actual interaction.
In some cases they were just experiencing insecurity, needing some kind of recognition or attention - but in a kind of "distorted" way. These were the more "persistent" cases, and, every single time, psychological issues were at play for their lack of online / social persona mis-alignment. Interestingly, once those in the more trollish or aggressive-end of the spectrum met others who they were interacting with, in real life, their online behavior tended to normalize significantly afterwards.
Adjusting the Golden Rule for the Internet
It is said that the Golden Rule is to not do unto others what you wouldn't want to be done unto you. Or, the affirmative version which is about doing unto others what we'd like be done to us...
I believe this is a good rule for the Internet too. Although, in many cases, we would escalate beyond what is normal in order to "defend our truth", due to the absence of real-life disincentives. And if we consider this "fair game" for ourselves or others, then where does that leave us?
Defending our beliefs, or our "truth" - even if we think is THE truth, cannot be an excuse for aggressive behavior. Even the best perspectives or truths will be tainted by an incongruent and negative behavior that is attached to them.
Contemplate this: If one values their truths, and is genuine in their intent to spread these truths to others, would they rather package them in a nice box, or a ...shit-covered box? If it is the later, then why? To prove what? That others won't buy their truths because they "aren't ready"?
Do we want to pretend we are so advanced and the others are so regressive, that they won't accept what we tell them, even after we "packaged" our truth in a shit-covered box?
Is it our truth that is the problem, or the shit-covered box that is disgusting and makes other want to avoid it along with the content? Even if others were willing to entertain our truths, the disgusting box will "seal" their aversion.
With these in mind, I want to tweak the Golden Rule and propose a new one, especially for the Internet. It would go something like that: One's online persona should be congruent with their social persona. The online persona should not cross the boundaries of aggression that one would not employ in real-life circumstances.
Or, stated differently: If the other was sitting in front of you, would you say the same things, in the same way, as you do through a keyboard?
If the answer is no, then refrain from doing so.
Instead, become a living ambassador of your ideas and truths by coupling them with your positive behaviors.