Internet: Democratizing Utopia or Cesspool for Trolls? –part 2
PART 2 IN A SERIES: While the original ideal of the internet was a space for unregulated democracy-encouraging dialogue, it has devolved to a place where trolls get thrills by abusing people, while hiding behind screen names. When MBU Timeline’s staff writers read the Time magazine article Tyranny of the Mob by Joel Stein, they decided to blog about their thoughts and feelings regarding internet trolls.
Handle Trolls with Grace, not Aggression
We all know the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How far must we take this standard when it comes to dealing with online trolling and negative media feedback?
Conflict, negativity, anger, bitterness and judgment are all flaws of human nature that are put on display through different forms of social media.
While one can argue that we need to stop the mass amounts of hate, as a Christian I can say that there is an alternative route.
To first understand my conclusion, everyone must come to realize that if you choose to post something publicly online you have to deal with the possibility of negative feedback.
The issue does not stem from elimination of trolling, but rather a lack in teaching people how to deal with negativity and conflict.
The millennials and upcoming generations do not know how to deal with conflict in a way that is forgiving and full of grace.
If you have studied the way Jesus dealt with conflict and negative feedback you will notice that He never passively tried to change them, but rather dealt with the situation lovingly yet justly, and then He moved on.
He set the bar for how to deal with negative people and possible trolls on the Internet.
I cannot disregard the feelings of the painful rejection and negativity that trolling brings, but we must learn how to deal with the feelings that we have experienced and learn to take the best out of the situation.
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
I challenge this generation to take a deeper look into the root of this issue we have at hand.
Learn to properly deal with negativity in a holy way and teach others by setting an example in the way that you deal with online bullying or trolling.
If we continue to feed into the attention of these trolls, then their desire to terrorize will only grow.
Block, delete and keep your accounts private if you are not ready for the attack of an internet troll.
Abolishing Innocence, Trolling is Changing Childhood
I was 10 years old, coming home from school ecstatic to go outside in our huge back yard and thinking up yet another game fueled by the combined childhood creativity of my sister and I.
It was a time of innocence, a time to be carefree. To simply be a kid and enjoy life.
The reality for a 10-year-old today is often vastly different. Childhood today comes with a new smart phone and constant internet access.
Imagination has been replaced with apps, a carefree attitude with three different social media accounts, and innocence with comments and likes.
Along with this new version of childhood reality comes difficulties, one of these being trolling.
Children and teenagers can gain popularity and recognition on social media rather easily.
This is often exciting for the avid social media user, but can come at a high price.
With fame comes trolls.
Trolling, a term used by social media users to describe online users who comment on other users’ accounts in a way that borders on harassment.
Trolls hide behind a screen and cut down others, and it is becoming normalized in our society.
Kids watch as celebrities become publicly scrutinized by not only the media, but by the common citizen on virtually every social media network.
Celebrities are seen often taking the issue of trolling in stride. Many times they put on a brave face and attempt to ignore the bullies behind the screen.
They seem jaded and unaffected and the younger eyes watching them can many times feel they must do the same.
Today, even the common teenager possesses the ability to become an online sensation and with this comes scrutiny and trolling they were never prepared for.
Kids today can pick up their phones at any time and check their notifications.
So, in turn, kids who are being trolled cannot escape the bullying. It’s constant and it’s damaging.
As kids attempt to ignore it or take the issue in stride they are slowly becoming jaded. This constant scrutiny and online access is stripping away the innocence that used to go hand-in-hand with childhood.
Children today have to worry about handling trolling or online bullies instead of maintaining the carefree attitude of adolescence.
Some social media sites have taken action to stop trolls by giving the option to turn off the comment section on one’s account.
Other social media users attempt to defend the person being trolled. People see there is a problem and some are taking action to try and stop the trolling.
As social media continues to grow trolling will only become worse, so, we must learn to teach kids how to handle it.
In many cases this may look like putting off social media use until children are older.
In other cases this may simply look like a conversation about the effect trolling can have on people and teaching children not to troll, and standing up for those who are being trolled.
In every case children must be taught that, even though people will say hurtful things, that does not define who they are.
If taught, this lesson will continue with them throughout their life as they continue to live under scrutiny online.
So maybe we will not go back to the time of carefree and innocence, but we can enter into a time where we encourage strength and confidence in youth, even amid the scrutiny.
Besides the Medium, Has Anything Really Changed?
Once upon a time, trolls lived in mythical lands, far-off places and in the vast expanses of children’s imaginations.
Now, in our technology-driven society, trolls have migrated to the internet and into the pockets and lives of millions.
The term “troll” now refers to any individual who uses the internet as a platform to terrorize or cause emotional harm to others.
A study by Pew Research said, “70 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds who use the internet had experienced harassment.”
While some people may truly be the Pol Pot of the internet, who wish to ruin the lives of innocent people, Whitney Phillips, of Mercer University, suggests, “These are mostly normal people who do things that seem fun at the time that have huge implications.”
This suggests that trolls are not evil by nature, they simply enjoy the comic effect that harassing comments sometimes have.
While trolling is becoming a bigger issue, the idea of hurting others for self amusement is ages old.
Unfortunately as technology grows so will the avenues for slander and hurt.