Story of the Internet Troll

Where in the real world, many people are average, boring, conservative consumerists, that dress alike and think alike, drive the same cars, and listen to the same music in an almost pathological “I’m completely normal and socially acceptable, so please don’t look at me or judge.” kind of way, the internet is a totally different culture.

The internet is a culture that allows everyone to drop their inhibition quicker than alcohol. It’s a disconnect of reality and a connect of “I can say and do whatever I feel like because no one knows my true identity and I do not have to take responsibility for the things I say because I’m a thousand miles away.” mentality.

It’s easy to be a deviant, be rude, make fun, act like a know-it-all, use expletives freely, and walk away feeling nothing because there are seemingly no emotion or consequences attached. But, I ask “What about integrity, compassion, self-respect, and basic intelligence? Those just fly out the window?

What is a troll?

Wikipedia entry on what a “Troll” is. But to me (in my own definition), a troll is likely a male, twenty or younger (or at an equivalent mental capacity or maturity level). They troll about, browsing YouTube and articles, looking for something they can contradict, backtalk, nay-say, put down, etc., in an attempt to emulate intelligence and cleverness for a feeling of superiority, most importantly, to get a rise out of people.

They are essentially fishing for people to mess with and get a reaction out of, hence the term “trolling” (fishing for reactions). Only, the irony is, that often in their attempt to do this, it actually backfires and only stands to prove how inept, ignorant, immature, and foolish they (and not the person they’re attempting to belittle) in fact are.

The common reaction to trolls used to be of extreme anger and frustration over even the most trivial of things, to the point of it being comical, which is ultimately the point. Now, it’s so commonplace, that most people can just call out a troll and ignore them the rest of the conversation very quickly, as they bring no substance of any kind.

When I was a kid first discovering the internet, I absolutely was a troll, I admit it. I’d go into chat rooms and mess with people, etc. I think it’s very common for kids to test boundaries like this, both on the internet, and in real life. But then, I grew up. As a young adult, I was on the opposite side of the coin, getting worked up over trolls, angry, and stressed out.

Now, a little bit older (and I still have many years of maturing and wisdom ahead of me, don’t get me wrong), I can take a step back and evaluate the situation calmly and look at it for what it really is. That’s probably good advice for any walk of life. When I do this, things are pretty clear and there’s usually nothing to get worked up about. On this very blog, I’ve been trolled a couple times.

I believe in and respect free speech, within reason. I used to be very strict about never deleting comments unless they were specifically spam and other forms of nonsensical junk, but if on-topic, I’d leave even the nastiest of comments, even ones that included name-calling. However, as I get older, I have less patience for negativity. Respecting free speech, doesn’t require me to keep a permanent record of a nasty and inappropriate comments full of hate and expletives.

Ultimately, while having worked with or communicated with thousands of people over the internet has jaded me to irrational, angry, and bizarre people, it does no service to my readers to leave those comments about and also creates an unhealthy expectation on my site, that it’s okay to behave that way. It’s not.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about people that disagree with me or vice versa, because that’s excellent. Debate and conversation is good, if done so politely. I’m referring to the people that post for the sole purpose of being rude. Rude, ignorant, and sometimes ridiculous and hyperbolic comments. Comments, that sometimes could have been delivered in a friendly manner, but the commenter explicitly chose to be snide or make a personal attack out of it though unnecessary, unprovoked, and certainly uncalled for.

Again, as detailed above, I can understand how people can feel comfortable to behave this way. But, as to why, I guess at the end of the day, it’s still a mystery. I suppose some people like confrontation, to be rude, and try and put someone in their place, to feel superior to them.

Sort of like the old man sitting on his porch yelling at school children that cut the corner of his lawn walking home from school. Mind you, his yard is a mess and he’s not concerned about the grass, it’s simply an opportunity for him to be able to feel righteous about something (no matter how trivial), because he has nothing else.

When I receive really rude comments, as an adult, I simply cannot relate. My assumption is that the majority of the time, it’s just a kid. Because, when I was fourteen or younger that’s about the maturity level it would take to relate to and understand some these comments.

Mind you, these comments are so extremely mild to what you might find on YouTube or on more popular blogs. Seven troll comments out of about a thousand comments on my blog, is all I’ve received, and that isn’t too bad. Writing, blogging, sharing, or doing anything in the public eye, you have to expect the trolls to come out. Once you grow out of being offended by off-the-wall criticism or even personal attacks, it becomes something else altogether, interesting, perhaps amusing, certainly worth observation, but never stress or anger. It should never ruin your day.

An Interesting Video on the Subject

Some of the theories I’ve already offered above are paralleled by some psychologists in the following video. I am not a psychologist or physicist, nor am I even formerly trained or educated in any related field. Just an observer, so seemingly, some of this stuff is simply common sense.