Disclaimer: this is all based upon what I have observed throughout my time on the server, others may have experienced other things, but I believe this to be an accurate summary of the source(s) of salt on TOS
Firstly, a short explanation of what I mean by "salt": I am referring to when players, primarily verbally, harass one another and getting into huge, usually pointless, arguments, or react to things in an utterly excessive way.
Secondly, I am going to start out by listing a few minor causes of salt:
1. Annoying and aggravating players - yes, players who regularly gloat about stuff and annoy people seemingly intentionally are only a minor cause of salt, as far as I have seen. Similarly trolls and such have a relatively small impact on the overall salt.
2. Immature, young, players - again, these do at times cause salt by misinterpreting what people say, acting immaturely, etc, but in the grand scheme of things, this is only a tiny amount.
3. PvP - I have to be a bit careful here as PvP is often seemingly a source of salt, but in reality I believe it is more a vent through which people release their salt, the PvP (and post-PvP arguments) in themselves do not create much salt, people just regularly display all their salt after PvP has occurred, especially if they lose.
4. Wars - bet you didn’t expect me to say that! Yes, wars are also pretty far down on the top things that cause salt.
5. [to be added when I find out after sending this that I have missed something]
So what does cause salt, you ask?
Well, to answer this we need to look back into the server’s past. As Mevans rightly said in Discord, the faction system certainly does outdate salt of the kind we find today. However I have an explanation for this:
Initially, when the server opened, play was relatively relaxed, people were just happy to have a lotr server to play on, and this attitude continued into early factions. Players made friends with whoever was online, regardless of any factions alignment and all that stuff.
Then after a few months, factions settled down and started what we consider to be normal activities: recruiting players, building stuff, claiming land, having wars, etc etc.
This did not cause salt.
However, what began to happen was that new players would move into a faction, and rather than becoming friends with anyone/everyone, they would usually only become friends with players in their factions and allied factions. There is nothing wrong with this, it was no one’s fault, in fact it is exactly what one would expect to happen once factions started to get a bit larger and almost all players ended up in factions. (Of course there were lots of exceptions, but this was the general server-wide trend)
This also did not cause salt.
Just to remind you, at this point, almost all faction leaders and experienced/older players were of the original type I mentioned above, i.e. they were for the most part all fairly friendly with one another and were pretty open generally.
Then, very gradually, these old players left, and other players (almost always from theirs or a closely allied faction) came through to replace them as faction leaders and high ranking players.
This did not cause salt.
Then some leaders and high ranking players had disagreements and fell out with one another, often over petty things, sometimes over wars, sometimes over players (points 1 and 2 that I listed above as having a small influence on their own come in here a little). More often than not, it was enemy leaders that had arguments, unsurprisingly, since they were the ones warring against one another. Most of these were not serious failings out by any means, just disagreements, as one sees within all walks of life.
Possibly as a consequence of this, or possibly as “RP”, high ranking players started, with their allies, creating stereotypes for enemy factions, saying those enemy factions were somehow worse than theirs, etc. I should be totally clear at this point that this was all just within faction chats, and while talking to allies - they would extremely rarely say such things to enemy players.
If you now look back to my second paragraph (about players only talking to allies), you may spot where the issue arises. Any new players who joined after this time’s only experience of many factions would be through these stereotypes, and insults thrown around by high ranking players, and I am sure that most of you are very aware of low ranking player’s tendency to take everything their superiors tell them for word, and to mimic them, and what they say. But low ranking players do not understand that these insults etc are meant primarily as jokes, we don’t truly believe everyone in some enemy factions are noobs and idiots.
So then a problem arises, a considerable amount of (primarily low ranking) players think that all players in enemy factions are idiots/noobs/bad at PvP/bad at the game generally/salty/etc.
Some lower ranking players are bad at keeping their mouth shut, and some of these low ranking players in turn rose to become high ranking players, retaining all of these beliefs about enemy players being bad. This was particularly the case during 2017 - we lost a huge number of high ranking players during that time for one reason or another.
Now at this stage, it only takes one slip of the tongue, or one misplaced word, and everything erupts into everyone hurling abuse at one another, and, well, salt!
Then the “domino effect” begins. Players being salty drives them further apart and makes them insult one another more, and this in turn magnifies all of the above, and continues to escalate until we reach where we are now.
So there you have it, that is my understanding of how salt came to be what it is now. It is no one in particular’s fault, and it’s too late to go back and change attitudes and actions in the past.