There are three types of troll. The Attack Troll, the Slander Troll and the Accidental Troll.
The Attack Troll will post rude comments, threaten you and generally be a dick. You’re probably more familiar with these, as they are the easiest to spot; the once who post comments like ‘lolz raepz, teh butsecs, die of aids, etc.’ These are mostly anonymous or at least have accounts designed to ensure the anonymity of their user.
The Slander Troll will publish blog posts, articles and click-bait that focuses on their target, spreading their trollish hate under the guise of intellectualism and progressiveness.
At their base, all troll comments are grounded in intent. That is, trolls purposely and intentionally disrupt. Regardless of the circumstances, a troll will place themselves at the centre of controversy and keep trying to get attention and control other people’s reactions. They will attack and quote mine what you say. I have had that happen to me on LiveJournal, back in the day so I say this from experience.
The Accidental Troll is literally that; someone accidentally accused of being a troll. You have most likely been called one before, because online its very easy to be called one. You see, the internet is a place where everyone has their soapbox and can pontificate until their fingers are worn down to nubs from typing out their erotic Mario-Bowser-Sherlock threesome fan-fic disagreement is a Fritzel level taboo. If you don’t love their perfect auteur driven work you will be called a troll just for not loving it like you should, you bad and filthy peon.
Trolling has always been about antagonism and harassment. Sometimes it’s showing up on a vegan message board to post recipe ideas for cooking veal, just to watch the precious little activists froth at the mouth. These are the internet equivalent of prank calls, and they may seem quite harmless as a result. I’d ask you to consider the vegan/veal situation, though.
I want you to hypothesis a person who is passionate about something, possibly on philosophical or spiritual grounds if not actually religious ones. I then want you to imagine how this person feels when someone deliberately comes up to them and says ‘I want to offend you and hurt your feelings by shocking you with things you find odious if not blasphemous.’
Are there higher tires to trolling to those mentioned above? Absolutely, for example, SWATTING is a thing. Is that the norm? Hell no, its not. Most people are not colossal assholes. Most of them are just regular assholes.
Do I think the problems with this situation will ever change? Can it be changed?
Nope. You’ll have to recode peoples brains or disallow comments everywhere you go if you want that. If you did the former then that’s some serious Evil-Genius style you got there and I’m up for being your minion. If it’s the later then you’ve successfully deleted free speak and critical commentary for the measly price of getting rid of a few nasty comments. Worth it? Nah.
Do I have any ideas on how we can change or improve on this problem?
Not unless you go the evil genius route, and if that’s your thing then have at it and remember me when you’ve set up the skull fortress. One thing I am certain of, however, is that we cannot change them. They will change by themselves eventually, but only if you ignore them; if you keep giving them attention then they have won, and the more attention you pay them the more they have won. If you make a big deal out of it and, oh, I don’t know, make a BBC documentary out of nasty twitter comments and publisice the fact that you’ve created a block bot…. they’ve still won. This is not a war that will be won by artillery or infantry charges. This is a war you can only win by retreating into the oblast and burning your farms and letting the cold void of a Russian winter deal with them.
My tips for dealing with a troll
Make sure you’re dealing with a troll. Sometimes, what appears to be a troll may just be a very stressed out person. Avoid getting heated yourself and try to ask kind questions or make kind suggestions before assuming the worst.
- Always assume good faith initially.
- Keep your sense of humour. You may be able to joke them out of their misbehaving.
- Consider ignoring them. Troll behaviour directed at you will usually stop if you don’t add fuel for them to play with.
- Report the troll to an op, administrator, or site owner if things persist.
If a way could be found to protect peoples data more then that would help sort out a lot of problems. Even something as simple as being anonymous online – it helped 4chan members stay safe on their own site.
On the whole; do I think that humanity itself can change? Evolve?
We have been having mass discussions for a very long time, ever since people like Cicero wrote dirty jokes about Caesar, so no, we wont evolve out of it for another hundred to hundred and fifty thousand years.
Trolling, at its core is either; I want to have power over you; I want to hurt you, or; I think you are factually incorrect. I don’t see any future in which we as a human race reject those principles. They have after all produced our Empires, our innovations and our philosophies.
Does that justify harassment, liken to what Errin Pizzey, Ryan Halligan and more recently Amanda Todd received? No, how could it? Can we stop it? No. Should we try to? Yes. How? I don’t know? Is it potentially pointless and doomed to failure? Quiet probably. Does that matter? No.
On the whole; do I think humanity will just get worse?
No. Or rather, I don’t think trolling will become a massive problem. Reaction to trolling may become a serious problem however. I’m not going to make assertions or condemnations here, but if you deliberately antagonise people you are going to get a response and you really do have to be prepared for the more crazy people out there to come after you. Is it fair? No, its really, really not fair. Its gross and shitty and fucked up.
But that is life. You cant live in the world you want, you have to live in the world you have.
I used to be bullied as a kid. I went to school every day scared that I was going to get picked on. I was sick and depressed for a long time, all based around fear. I even cut myself and wrote suicide letters because that’s what made me feel better.
I stopped all that when I stopped being scared. I stopped being scared when I realised I couldn’t affect what they did, but how I reacted to it.
Now my life experience here is not all purpose fix all, I can only fix my problems my own way.
Remember that the internet is still fairly young as a means of mass communication. Things will change, and I doubt that it will become better or worse. It will stay the same overall with some places becoming stricter on moderation and tone policing and others not caring enough.