Image by Sal Falko/Flickr

There are many people on the internet, using it to do things like read 140 characters worth of a news item or post videos of themselves popping cysts the size of newborn kittens. Haha, I'm kind of kidding! Obviously, my carefully-cultivated, on-brand jaded approach to online interactions is a joke. I mean, I believe the internet can be an awful, stupid place, but it’s not entirely awful and stupid. It’s only as awful and stupid as the people who use it. Like, for example, the type of people I’ve included in this handy field guide.

Now, I'm certain there are much grosser and far more terrifying types of people online, but you have to really seek them out in niche corners of the web, where people do things like sell used diapers or place ads hoping for women to sit on mattresses full of fried plantains. So I won't include those type of people here.

Anyway, here are some of the people you'll keep running into online. Be warned:

The Troll


You're familiar with this person by now, yeah?

The Sprite


A sprite is, if you're anything like me, just as annoying as a troll. A sprite is also a term that I completely made up, but that doesn't mean that these people don't definitely exist and definitely want to slowly chip away at your desire to interact with other human beings online.

Basically, a sprite is this:

"You know how people (our moms) say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Sprites are the ones doing the paving. They annoy you by being nice to you. Or, more accurately, 'nice.' They’re the complete strangers who interact with every little thing you post across different social media platforms, who follow all your friends, and who insert themselves into your unrelated online conversations."


Right? Right.

The Webtrepreninja

This image was lost some time after publication.


This person once heard about business school and uses the word "promote" to mean "tell." This person makes Twitter spam bots look trustworthy.

The Enthusiast


This stranger is usually quiet, busily minding his or her own business, until you post something about a specific topic that happens to strike his or her interest. In my personal experience, this topic is "farting" and this person is definitely a he. Who definitely enjoys farts. A lot.

The Re-porter


This person enjoys "breaking news." That is in quotation marks because, in this context, "breaking news" refers to posting or talking about something that everyone else online is also posting and talking about. Chances are, we've all heard about the car chase, shooting, kidnapping, or major disaster you're writing about from people on the scene or who have a track record of placing news events into meaningful context. Adding "This" or "Whoa" or "Breaking" doesn't position you as an expert on an event, nor does it grant you any sort of ownership over it.

The Family Member


This is someone's family member. Not yours, just someone's. This person — who is typically older and who typically enjoys posting sassy cartoons about dogs — will often enter into a discussion happening online, say on a Facebook thread, and prove that he or she does not understand how to use the medium (e.g. signing off each post with "Love, Aunt Ruth" or treating a Facebook status update like a text message directly to Mark Zuckerburg) and does not understand what jokes or lyrics are. Go easy on this person. Aunt Ruth only wants what's best for you, even if that means tagging you in thirty-seven consecutive posts about hating Mondays.