Internet: Democratizing Utopia or Cesspool for Trolls? –part 3
PART 3 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.
Graphic by Matt Williams
Is Trolling Inherently Bad?
How would you feel if somebody made a mockery of you online and all your friends read it?
How would you feel if someone threatened a loved one, because of something you posted online?
Would you be able to ignore the comments?
How would you respond?
For the most part, trolls are detrimental to society because they initiate negativity on a group or an individual, for the sake of a good laugh or to attack them.
I personally believe not all forms of trolling are bad.
For instance, someone can troll their friends by messaging them jokes or pretending to act out of character.
For the most part, trolling somebody you don’t know to cause them embarrassment and harm is downright sophomoric and juvenile.
The author of the article, “Tyranny of the Mob,” Joel Stein, tackled a lot of interesting issues with trolling, as well as describing them very effectively.
He perfectly summed up trolls as individuals who feed on attention. “Trolls don’t hate people as much as they love the game of hating people.”
If you don’t respond to a troll, you’re more than likely to upset him or her by doing so because they always want a response.
The problem is that it’s difficult not to react when someone says something demeaning about you or someone you care about.
Examples of trolling range from pranks to harassment to threats, and Stein’s article examines stories about each kind.
This shows how one person’s life can be heavily impacted by a group of people on a computer wanting to make that individual suffer for hardly any reason.
Trolls tend to target women and minorities. “When sites are overrun by tolls, they drown out the voices of women, ethnic and religious minorities, gays — anyone who might feel vulnerable,” Stein said.
Stein mentions the concept of the alt-right, a “reactionary movement that works for men’s rights and against immigration” and says that “trolling has become the main tool of the alt-right.”
Every day when I go onto YouTube or any social media site, it’s hard not to find someone looking for attention.
It’s nice to have attention, and I’ll admit that I wish I had some more attention in real life, however, it’s pretty easy to get attention if you’re making a fool out of yourself and that’s what a troll will do.
A lot of people think trolls say statements they really mean, but most of the time they know what they’re saying is crazy, but they just want to be recognized.
As a sports writer whose only public image is around my friends and readers, it’s important that I talk about mostly sports topics on social media, and at all times look professional.
But when I see a post that is borderline insane, I have the urge to give my 2 cents to that poster, however, I have to back away and not be sucked into the troll’s plan.
I agree with Stein, that you have to kill them with silence. It’s a slow process, but eventually it’s painful for the troll. I do think, however, that Stein was biased and generalized at times about Republicans using trolling methods as their “main tool.”
He talks about how they advocate for men’s rights, but for the most part, this is all about making fun of extreme feminism and pretending to do the same for men.
There’s a word for it and it’s called, meninism, which is, “a (satirical) belief showing the hypocrisy of first world feminism by flipping the sexes and complaining about men’s rights in a similar way to what first world feminists do.”
Stein makes a good point that, “at some point, everyone, no matter how desensitized by their online experience, is liable to get freaked out by a big enough or cruel enough threat.”
The internet would surely be a better place with less trolls, but unfortunately, they don’t appear to be dwindling in size any time soon.
They’re simply terrible because all they want to do is cause chaos for people.
Not the Trolls I Used to Know
When I was a kid trolls were known to be dolls with crazy colored hair made by DreamWorks Animation. Today trolls are most commonly known for their menacing presence within cyberspace.
Trolling is the cruel art of tormenting other people using online mediums. According to a Time Magazine article, “Trolling can range from clever pranks to harassment to violent threats.”
With the progression of social media platforms, trolls have become a more prominent part of the user experience. Their presence can affect anyone from a private account user to a public figure or celebrity.
The widespread nature of this issue has in some cases forced victims offline or at least left them emotionally damaged.
In fact, actor Leslie Jones, who is known for her recent role in the movie, “Ghostbusters,” has recently experienced online abuse herself.
One would think that after the showing of a major film people would be more inclined to comment on their overall ratings of the movie and not so much their opinion of an actor’s appearance or race, but for Jones her experience was much different.
“They started sending me threats that they were going to cut off my head and stuff they do to ‘N words,’” she said in the Time magazine article.
After producing a popular movie she never expected to receive such hurtful social media attention. She said she signed off Twitter that night with a “very sad heart” and tears.
This kind of emotional effect is the reason trolling can be so harmful. While the comments Jones was getting ranged from nasty comments about her appearance to literal death threats, this is not uncommon.
There are all different types of trolls prowling the web. Some are just looking for a laugh while others have serious intent to harm or negatively affect someone.
So why are there so many trolls out there and how do we stop them?
I don’t think anyone will truly ever know the real reason behind such an ignorant pastime. However, one thing is for sure, trolls gain power when given attention.
Whether a private account or public, trolls will feed on responses to their comments. The most important thing to do is not feed them attention.
Attention is how they gain their freedom online.
In time, if ignored, they will eventually stop altogether. Until then, we will have to be guarded against these new age bullies.
Your Monsters Have Morphed
Those monsters under your bed you’ve had as a child? They have taken flight to the fluid world of online characters and morphed into what we know as “trolls.”
“You are disgusting,” they say.
“Those people deserve to be hunted down and raped,” they post.
They may even share someone’s social security number or a celebrity’s personal phone number to the public.
But after reading Tyranny of the Mob by Joel Stein, I realize it is not simply a hatred of people that drives these internet trolls, but more so their love for the game of hating people.
The more private internet usage has grown, the more vicious people can be behind the safety of their own screen.
Their words are usually terribly empty, but despite the old sticks and stones breaking bones but words never hurting taunt, they can pack an abominably destructive punch.
Because it is so easy to be of high profile and practically a public figure without even leaving your desk chair or removing your thumbs from your phone, it is also easier to become a victim of sometimes intense and overwhelming harassment.
It is simply a fact of the world: the more your following grows, the more trolls you will pick up.
Therefore, as you perhaps add another social profile to your repertoire or gain more notifications to your posts, remember that human nature has a need for mischief, and you are not excluded.