Social media has changed the way we eat, interact, buy, sell and even generally conduct our day to day life. It has permeated every aspect of our lives and is here to stay. Social media has not just touched individual lives, it has radically changed the way companies and brands connect with people and spread their “buzz” as it has come to be called now! When something like this comes up and takes over popular culture and affects society this way, there is bound to be a downside! And social media is no exception, there are bad apples here. They go by the name of trolls. They are at best “Anti-Social” in terms of attitude and conduct. Let us look at this aspect of social media here
Parents are always worried about their children either purposefully or unwittingly finding something unsavory; as we all know the web is full of porn and scams. However, it isn’t just kids we need to worry about and there are much bigger and potentially more serious concerns than merely attempts to get some of your cash and make it theirs. There are serious problems that are seemingly originating from nothing but a deep rooted intention to harm other people online. These are cowardly and often very damaging and scathing attacks from anonymous people who seem bent on ruining your day or sometimes everyday. These are trolls, the center of this article
What is the motivation behind an internet troll? What drives them? We often visualize them as some socially awkward people who, whilst internet savvy, would crumble under the pressure if you could somehow confront them in person.
But why do trolls exist? News.com.au spoke to an anonymous troll who called himself “Mark”. Whilst in his early to mid-teens, Mark began engaging in what he and his friends called “RIP trolling”, which basically involved trolling memorial Facebook pages of public figures who had passed away. They reported that Mark explained he did this because it gave him “a feeling of enjoyment and power over causing their family members distress and pain and anger”.
This sort of profile and description of a troll is enough to make any person feel disgusted and become vigilant at the same time when they are online. It is worth remembering that these are people with whom reason and logic never works. Any thought/reaction pattern that seems logical or reasonable cannot be expected of them. More often than not, they get extremely violent, vociferous and personal in their attacks. There are people who have gone into a deep depression at the receiving end of a troll’s abuse.
2393 years ago, in 380BC, Plato wrote the myth of the Ring of Gyges, in which a shepherd called Gyges, discovers a ring that makes him invisible. He uses the protection this offers to enter the royal household, seduce the queen, assassinate the king and take the kingdom. Plato says: “If now there should be two such rings, and the just man should put on one and the unjust the other, no one could be found, it would seem, of such adamantine temper as to persevere in justice.”
In a way, this myth can be used to explain the sense of security that trolls feel when hiding behind the anonymity that online media offer. They then revel in this feeling and go after popular and powerful people to launch their tirade.
Plato felt that the protection of being unidentifiable could corrupt even the most morally upstanding person. Now imagine what that kind of shield can do to an already unsettled/disturbed/warped mind! The results are very disastrous.
The Gyges effect – the way that the internet can encourage a misplaced feeling of blind courage people simply would not experience face to face – is only part of the explanation. Linked to that is the way the internet allows us to stop feeling empathy. In a nutshell, we are typing words on a keyboard and sending them through a screen, and seeing words come back through the same screen. No voice, face or body language to see and get feedback about the impact. This makes very easy to pretend there isn’t a real human being at the other end, but also to completely dismiss and downplay any emotional reaction that they convey back as an exaggeration or a lie or just an act.
The internet, very drastically increases that ability, and actually allows us to emotionally dissociate ourselves, not just from the people we don’t like online but even from those we don’t even know. It is very rare to see a person who hasn’t written something in an online review, email or comment that was more aggressive than anything they would ever say in person. In fact, all of us tend to magnify feelings when we are online. But then, all of us don’t become trolls. Only a few! Why? And How?
One of the most prevalent reasons for trolling seems to be simple boredom – too much free time in the hands of an idle mind can do many things that aren’t predictable. So these people are trolling to kill a few hours, entertain themselves, and strangely even impress others of a similar mindset. Trolls often hunt in packs.
There are other motives too. Attention seeking is a main driver. Disenchantment is another. Today’s unforgiving lifestyle where qualified folks find it tough to get jobs fuels such extreme reactions from a few minds. Offline, these people hardly have the guts to walk up and talk to anyone. This is what fuels their raging outbursts online where they feel safe under a cloak of anonymity.
But whatever the reason or the driver, trolling isn’t right and is not to be tolerated silently. Never ever be quiet. Here’s what you should do when confronted by a troll online
- DO NOT indulge them by responding to their abuse
- DO collect links and screenshots of their behavior
- DO Call them out on the platform where they are abusing you
- DO report them to the platform curators and the local authorities
- DO NOT at any cost, even by mistake, give any indication of where you live or work to them
- DO ignore them after all this is done, block them and go about your business
- DO get professional help if their abuse has impacted you in any way personally
This list is just a rough set, tell us what you have done when trolled. Together, we can fight this online!