Trolls. You know who I’m talking about. Have you ever noticed that every time you decide to go down and read the comments on a YouTube video every single conversation turns into random arguments about God, racism, bigotry, misogyny, guns, or whatever other hot button issue is popular? You could watch a cat video, and if you read enough of the comments, you will read a dissertation on the existence of god, and then read a rebuttal of equal length, and snark.
Why don’t you believe me when I shout things at you!?
Why do they do it? Do people really think that these petty, little internet fights will actually change the minds of rational people reading them? Well, evidence is now beginning to stack up saying that these comment section flame wars do actually make a difference.
This issue was recently brought to the public sphere when Popular Science recently pulled off the comments section of all of their articles. “A fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story.”
Before the censorship trolls begin screaming about the 1st amendment, which applies to legal matters not private companies, we are not talking about people expressing legitimate view points. Even the most inarticulate, boorish, ignorant moron deserves to have their voice heard, when raising sincere points. Trolls are not trying to do this.
I’m being honest, honestly… I really do believe that the Earth is flat. It’s a legitimate scientific view point! GO READ A BOOK!
Urban dictionary defines a troll as “someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.”
They whole point is to piss people off into silence. If people are expressing opinions that you don’t like, or just don’t want to hear, you can make that person so mad that they walk away, or just become belligerent and incoherent.
But there is more to trolling than just assholes on the internet, or at least some troll advocates argue. For some it is tool to expose hypocrisy, prompt discussion, or forward their position.
“Trolls have had a bad rap in the press as something synonymous with bullying, but they are distinctly different things. Trolls are generally motivated to elicit a predictable response – it doesn’t have to be negative or hurtful. It can be to amuse, perform, disrupt or derail a conversation, or to polarise a community. Sometimes it can be a productive tool, like posting a controversial image to increase engagement,”-Téa Smith, director of web consulting business Schematiq
Why can’t we go back to the days when these were the only trolls we talked about? Remember when you used to be able to ram an eraser into the butts of trolls? What happened to those days?
When talking about these trolls, honorable trolls we could call them, I think it is important to understand, they are most likely not the norm. I don’t have data on that I admit, but how can repeatedly typing “faggot”, over and over again, move any position forward. All you do here is prove that you are an ass hole.
A recent study by some researchers out of the University of Manitoba found that “studies revealed… patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores. Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior”
The studies were conducted by surveys administered via the internet, which is a common practice across social sciences, with N=1215. My first question is, how the hell do you give trolls a survey, ON THE INTERNET, and have them NOT troll you!? However, I do trust that they are competent scientists and included all of the appropriate controls.
There you have it, Trolls are sadistic pricks, screwing up science articles for sadistic pleasure.
It makes for a great tag line, but I just don’t believe it. I think that some trolls are in fact derailing MANY conversations, and that many display signs of psychopathy, narcissism, and sadism, but at the end of the day trolls are people. People with a shitty hobby in my opinion, but people none the less.
I think that their motives are ultimately going to be complex, rather than simplistic the way their comments would suggest.
I still don’t like trolls. I don’t think they add much, if any, meaning to any conversation, despite the their claims to the contrary. I will end this rather rambling post with this message for the trolls:
Have your fun, and enjoy your chaos. But remember, while you play your games and get your lulz, there are people, real and at times fragile people, to whom your comments are not a game. You words DO have power, the power to hurt. Maybe you like that, maybe you’re ignorant of this. But you can’t go around shitting on everything and expect there to never be any due recourse. Eventually, either you or the internet will change, for better or worse.
B. G. Carter