Trolling The Internet Trolls

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Short essay questioning if those who are trolled or bullied online become trolls and bullies themselves.

Trolling the Internet Trolls

 

Trolling and cyberbullying can upset the person using the internet regardless of if they are the target or not. A troll will post material to provoke you into reacting, usually by argueing with them. Online bullying is often where you are the target. It is insidious. It can ruin reputations and careers. The purpose of this essay though is to think about if we are trolled or bullied, do we become a troll or cyberbully? This is not about blame or judgement, but rather thinking about where that boundary is that we hit back and become trolls or bullies ourselves.

 

Australian journalist Ginger Gorman has actively chased trolls for years. An insight she gave in her work was showing how people who troll got pleasure from doing these activities. Some cannot understand that you cannot just shut down your use of the internet. We have become heavily dependent on using all aspects of the internet, as Gorman rightly argues. Part of that is entering the domain of the troll, who have been doing their activities for decades.

 

Some also do take the abuse of trolls and are not concerned about it. These are even if these are personal attacks on the person. Reading a Facebook newspaper page for example, it is easy to find trolls in action abusing each other or making inflammatory comments. Troll comments that flame arguments can be anywhere online, though they exist heavily on social media platforms.

 

Trolls have posted shocking comments online, resulting sometimes in their being jailed for doing so. This is especially when they attack memorials or make fun of human and animal suffering. That people would get pleasure from it has been the subject of research. There is the argument that the person does not have to physically face the other person. It is easy to troll and bully others when the target is not physically present. Therefore, they can, usually, get away with saying nasty things. Trolls can gather on sites such as 4Chan to defame others or do so in private virtual communities.

 

The question though is what if those that are trolled and bullied begin to vent their hurt and anger onto others? If the bullying and trolling has hurt deeply, do people start doing that behaviour to others. It is little discussed and researched if this does occur. Not every person who experiences trolling becomes sociopathic or narcissistic. Yet a persistent hounding by trolls does have negative consequences.

 

The case in Australia of model and commentator Charlotte Dawson was an example of this. Dawson did not become a troll, but in hitting back at people it increased her as being a target. Women especially have been seen as greater troll and bully targets. But people did ask her why she bothered to pursue those that trolled her. One troll who targeted her was filmed making excuses for his behaviour towards her. In some ways, it was valuable to hear the troll’s motivations for abuse. It can though cause us to question if we have ever done such things to people online, regardless if we know them or not.

 

Yet we also may not actually be trolls or bullies, but might be having a bad day. If we are in a negative mood, we may feel we need to take on a troll and argue with them. We risk our comments being reported and our removal from social media or other communities if we do so. By contrast, people can bully or troll one or more persons in groups. We might feel a sense of power, or of defending another person online, if we participate. In doing so we might think “I’m not the troll here”, bur our comments might be like a troll’s. We are doing the very thing that we abhor.

 

Receiving bullying and trolling is subjective. The recipient may choose to play a game with the other person. Aside from the choice to engage or not, the vitriol in responses from the target may be seen to others as childish. But to the individual who was the target, giving back can feel good. It can also unleash hurt and anger from the target. The online troll becomes a justified target to take that anger out on.

 

An example of trolling and responses is shown here to illustrate a potential boundary being crossed by the respondent.  

 

First trolling example:

 

Troll: You are really fat, I doubt you would get any friends.

 

Respondent: Ok, it seems you have an issue with overweight people, that’s fine, leave it at that.

 

Second trolling example:

 

Troll: You are really fat, I doubt you would get any friends.

 

Respondent: Your mother must have been a huge whore to give birth to someone with you attitude, get lost and jump off a bridge.

 

To an observer, the first might be a reasonable response and does not suggest any return bullying or trolling. It is a closed communication where the respondent has decided to call out the troll’s behaviour, ceasing contact with the troll. This person would be seen as defending themselves, not engaging in trolling.

 

The second example though could be seen as bullying and trolling. It does seem like a one-off remark, but the mention of the troll’s family member can make it seem distasteful. This does not mean we now assume the person is a bully or troll. However, it is possible they could be labelled one and be avoided online purely on this one remark.

 

People do judge others by their online personas even if those they interact with are anonymous or not known to them. Answering do we become a troll or bully if we respond to bad online behaviour is subjective. It would depend on if it became a habit. It would further depend on if we gain pleasure from hurting others because we are less inhibited online. What is clear is we need to watch our own behaviours and decide if trolling and bullying others is worth it. If we do respond meanly to these trolls then we should not judge ourselves, but ask ourselves the question is it worth being what we despise?


Submitted: December 02, 2020

© Copyright 2021 michaeln. All rights reserved.

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LE. Berry

I like the question at the end of your piece michaelin.

Wed, December 2nd, 2020 10:04pm

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