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June 29th, 2015

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09:56 pm - Troll thoughts
To clumsily repeat things I've said before and change no one's mind, here are some thoughts on trolling. To summarize: Trolls are horrible people and to pretend otherwise is harmful to humanity.

Maybe that sounds too harsh but I don't think it is. By saying they're horrible I don't mean they should be arrested and sent to gas chambers or something, just that they should stop being horrible (and maybe we should keep them away from computers). Anyway, I'm taking that language from this article which is a summary of a study that links trolling to sadism and generally being pathologically awful.

As I see it, it starts in school when one or two or ten kids don't fit in and are bullied and made to feel powerless. Then when adolescence hits they're allowed to spend lots of time on their computers, where they meet thousands of other one to two to ten kids. Maybe they learn some coding, and now they finally feel powerful. One option they have is to use that power to enrich themselves and others, and move beyond their miserable powerlessness. Unfortunately, a lot of them instead decide that those other kids who bullied them were absolutely correct, because the weak deserve to be tormented. Now that they're no longer weak, they use their power to become bullies themselves.

I don't know where sadism comes from, whether it's a learned behavior or something you're born with. If it's the former then spending lots of time among other sadists at a young age probably influences it. Another influence is how everyone acts like it's okay, like it's just a bit of fun. In Internet culture it's often given an allure and a mystique: even when people complain about how trolls are ruining their day, they're promoting the action. Some sneaky ninja-type person is getting the better of you, what a cool person that must be. There are also those who are quick to denounce anything they disagree with as obvious trolling, the implication being "that person is cool, but my ability to see through them makes me as cool as them and even a little cooler!"

Thanks to the allure we've given it, it's no wonder young people with something to prove gravitate toward this awfulness.

The word has become so alluring that people just stop concerning themselves with what it means and use it for any situation. Pop culture sites put in headlines all the time because it'll get people to click on them. It can mean to pull a prank, or to joke around, or to put out an inferior product, or to just be unpleasant in general. Often people use "troll" to mean anyone who says something they don't like. One of the most high-profile examples is when Chris Hardwick, who apparently somehow became the emissary of Internet culture to the rest of the world, used his appearance on the Emmy Awards to joke about trolls. In his view, trolls are people who say mean things to famous people on Twitter and aren't good at spelling. Now that he's brought that notion to a wide audience, surely lots of people think trolling is no big deal.

That really bothers me, because I feel like it encourages the sadists, or at least prevents them from being discouraged. Someone might say they're trolling and you might think they're just pulling a harmless little prank, when in fact they're trying to ruin someone's life by sending them death threats, because they think that's fun. You feign disapproval but it's obvious you're encouraging this behavior even though you've misunderstood what it is you're encouraging. That's a very specific example that probably doesn't happen much, but my point is that devaluing the term makes the awfulness invisible, which allows it to spread.

However, the thing that most allows it to spread is that most people are afraid of criticizing other people's bad behavior. If you're not actively and/or passively making the world worse your friends might not think you're cool, and that would be the worst thing ever! (I'm not sure why you'd want to be friends with someone who likes trolling though. How could you trust them?) Then again, some people take it too far and criticize everything even when it's not warranted, but I feel like most of the time that's not as terrible as some people complain it is.

I admit that most of the sadistic trolling isn't pure evil, like prank calling the parents of a boy who shot himself (but seriously, if you think that's not horribly wrong, fuck you so much). Most of it is in discussions, where people post things they don't believe in an attempt to get people to overreact, because controlling people makes them feel better about their own horrible lives for a short while. The oft-repeated advice is "don't feed the trolls". Well, I don't agree with that. Why does it matter if some emotionally stunted person gets pleasure for a stupid reason? If they're doing a decent job of it they should be expressing a point that someone could genuinely bring up. I think we should just behave normally even if we think the person we're talking to is being dishonest. If they trick us into looking silly, they've won a stupid game that doesn't matter. However, if they get us to mistrust each other and shape our discussions around the possibility of their existence, we've lost something real.
Current Music: Alabama Shakes - Don't Wanna Fight

(1 comment | Leave a comment)


Date:June 30th, 2015 05:40 pm (UTC)


Trolling is a direct result of our society being kept in fear and under pressure constantly.

Being exposed to sadism at an early age does make it more likely that the child will get used to relieving his/her stress by hurting others, and it might stay that way, but if you place a person in an accepting, loving, ideal environment, they won’t feel the need to “troll".
Since we can’t place everyone in an ideal environment, sadism and all sorts of crazy mental disorders will continue to develop in people. (There’s no born sadist. Some people are just more sensitive than others and more prone to mental illnesses.)
By treating mental disorders with therapy, we only eliminate the symptom and not the cause.

Society encourages sadism, and makes it possible. Just like leaving a piece of cake out in the car for days: ideal environment for bacteria like clostridium botulinum to thrive. (Nobody wants to eat that!!)

So what can we do about trolls?
You already wrote it down, but there will always be people who will react the way the trolls want them to.
It’s also becoming less and less likely that somebody will become a victim as time goes on, since people are learning how to deal with trolls.
Sadly, we can’t ignore them (yet).

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