Trolls Among Us

Trolls are that post inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums anonymously…Cowards. Hiding behind a screen name or just words is still a form of cowardliness.

A troll is not a new concept, it’s the equivalent of some one talking crap through the grapevine or mailing a letter with no return address. It is the need to express yourself negatively and to get others on the band wagon. Which seems to have worked with groups of trolls guiding each other to the next bash fest.

Trolling is not just a group of meanies with the goal of hurting and disrupting  online communities, but they have rules and their own lingo. One term that stood out is the plural of lol, LULZ, which is ‘ the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium’, also its a way for trolls to keep score. One rule is ‘the game is never over until all the lulz have been had.

They have created web communities of their own. These sites allow trolls access to what they normally couldn’t and so trolls can see what others trolls are loling about. Some sites are 4chan.org and encyclopediadramatica.se, whose slogan is ‘In Lulz we trust’.

A lot of these trolls are normal people we encounter everyday. Our professors, pastors, gas station clerk, etc  are leading double lives as trolls . Earlier in the semester we read about true online identity, but trolls cause us to ask about the true identities offline. Jason Fortuny is one of those people. A freelance web designer and programmer who describes himself as a ‘normal person who does insane things online’.

Trolls hide behind the mask of anonymity ready to pounce on the next picture, video or tragedy that appears on their screen. They lay in wait for the next vulnerable situation and then attack. So with the uncertainty of who these trolls are, does it cause us to question the true identities of those around us offline?

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14 thoughts on “Trolls Among Us

  1. You’ve brought up a very good point. I mean we never really know. Some people live double lives and that could very likely be possible. I’d like to think that the people I know wouldn’t do that but I would have to say yes to your question. Maybe you know someone with a little bit of a temper. They might be going home and letting it out verbally through various online media. I guess one truly never knows. Not that I think that this is good at all, but it might be a tad bit better than physical bullying. It is easier to take yourself out of a cyber bullying situation. You could leave social media.

  2. It seems like people these days just want attention. Whether it is online or not they will do anything to get it. When online the trolls come out and express their unruly overly opinionated vulgar opinions. Some people will even go the extreme to make another identity because they feel safer and more secure. While some so this because they fear they will be bullied, some do it to criticize others and degrade them, I don’t know if it makes them feel cool or powerful but it is a problem in today’s internet usage that unfortunately can lead to tragic events. Hurtful words online carry the same weight as they so in person. Being anonymous only complicates things, unfortunately we don’t know who people truly are anymore.

  3. I do believe there is a line that can be crossed where free speech becomes hurtful and can be categorized as libel. I think the courts have a strict definition of offline libel that should be updated to provide boundaries for the online world. I think the means exist to do this, and it only needs political will and action to occur. If this is truly an issue for the general population, then they should use the internet to influence their elected officials to create legislation and enforcement mechanisms to provide the protection they desire.

  4. trolling is not just an online thing. People do it in person a lot too, trying to create a situation or confrontation. Its often considered funny when someone is “trolled.” You can never tell who you’re dealing with online, it may be a family member. There isn’t really anything you can do about it

  5. I think knowing someone offline is a lot different than knowing someone online. When we meet people in person, we get to see their facial gestures and how they react to what we say. However, online we usually just get to see what they post in words and we have to dissect if they are “troll” just from that. I think spending more time with a person offline means a lot more than spending time chatting with someone online. In real life, we can get the chance to see how people react in different situations, and then judge if they are being fake or not. Obviously, people can still act different in real life. In high school, we get to see this a lot with teenagers, mostly girls, calling each other fake and what not.

  6. I totally agree with your blog post, by posting provocative comments, trolls hurt our society (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)
    The number of internet trolls out there is growing rapidly since the internet has created a perfect shield for those people. Trolls go to various social media sites and use different identities in each one with the intention to hurt someone by posting discomfort things about him or her. You are right, we do not know if someone is a troll; it can be a friend, a cousin, someone from school or even our boss. The only thing people can do is to be alert every time they log in any social network. If someone encounters a troll, they should contact help right away and not take those comments seriously.

  7. Trolls are similar to the pedophiles, rapists or murderers, which we see on the nightly newscasts. When reporters ask neighbors and friends what they knew about the reported perpetrator they say “he was just your average neighbor, who played with my kids” or “she was a decent co-worker who did a good job” It’s my belief that these Trolls “get-off” on the tragedy of others, and the more tragic the more they feed into it. The normalcy they hide behind comes in the form of “everyday folks” and this is really their mask and their true selves are the monsters that troll Internet sites.

  8. Controlling the image that other people perceive of you is not strictly limited to online. Often people change who they are through out their life. The idea that the person you think you know could be a completely different person is realistic. To spin an image is not that hard; hang out with a certain group, have certain hobbies, ideals, and dress a certain way, that is plenty enough to convince many people of who you are. Just look at the high school world and all its clicks. These people are all associated with a certain group of people based on the things I listed above. Now how many people truly fit into the mold of the jock or the nerd? I can tell you I am a huge nerd, I love technology and anything that is new but I do not fit the mold. If you spoke to me about certain topics you would swear up and down that I have spent all my time on a computer nerding it up. Then another topic and you may think that I am a whole new archetype. My point is that no one fits into a single mold.When I am hanging out with my nerdy friends I am way more nerdy than if I am with my friends with hockey. The idea of a shifting identity is normal. It is vary rare to find a person who is the same no matter who they are with, or where they are.

  9. Good point. Learning about all of this definitely has made me wonder, are any of my friends trolls? I doubt that they are, but one never knows.
    I feel like there is two categories of trolling: the hardcore and the everyday trolls. I say this because I know people, friends actually, who have trolled people for fun. Usually it’s not someone they know, most of the time it’s a creepy person that tries to add them on Facebook or something. They do it for laughs, but once it’s done, it’s done. Then, there are the hardcore trolls like the ones you mention. These people have a whole new identity online. They live for trolling everyone. Not only do they just mess with your “emotional equilibrium,” they also find stuff out about it you, like your personal information, to troll you even harder.
    To me, funny little trolls that people do are most of the time for the laughs and not meant to hurt anyone. However, the hardcore trolls do all of this damage for their own personal enjoyment. It makes you wonder why they choose to do this to other people.

  10. I never thought of trolling from the standpoint of being offline. People can have alter egos, of course, so it would make you question or think about if a person who they say they really are. Just like people who lie about their identity online, it can be done in the real world as well.

  11. This is an interesting point! You never know what you acquaintances, friends, and family, etc do online. In the same way that people are genuinely shocked when they discover that someone they know is a murderer (ya know he seemed like such a nice guy!), I think people would be shocked to learn that people they know are hardcore trolls or that they have some weird freaky online life.

    I wonder what this means when it comes to identity. Are these variants of ourselves or who we really are? I think it’s a combination of both. In my online identity blog, I talked about how people have different identities in different environments online. The same holds true for real life, where we act differently in varying environments because of the norms of the environment. Online it may seem “normal” to some people to troll or act like a tool because that’s just a norm of their online community. I mean, I’m not condoning their behavior, but that could explain why people have no qualms with trolling. In person, they may be less likely to act to like that because of the repercussions.

  12. It seems as though plenty of people take beating on the internet these days, even if they really shouldn’t. I have personally never gotten upset over anything on the web, because I have never really taken anything serious enough to become upset. Although this does seem to be happening a lot more often. People definitely get a certain satisfaction to poking fun at things here and there, but who gets satisfaction for blasting off at things like death or extreme discrimination? Chances are it’s people who won’t do it in real life. They see that the internet is the best opportunity to feed the desire to make other feel bad. Unfortunately there isn’t much that we can do about it.

  13. I question the true identities of those around me all the time! Okay, not really but I should. It seems that these days more and more people are not who they appear to be. Trolls are a very unique case of this. It seems that some people are leading a double life as an internet troll. I’m not exactly sure if I believe this though. Trolls are trolls regardless of their lack of a cyber-presence. Many of them are vile people and I don’t think that kind of though process can be shut off with the flip of a switch as the phrase double life suggests. I say once a troll, always a troll!

  14. Do I question the true identities of those around me offline? Well I think that most people, if not everyone, has something they hide from the public. I may not question everyone’s entire identity, but I know that there’s always those dirty little secrets people have. I have never questioned whether someone’s secret was trolling though. However, after seeing the stories of how normal a life most of these trolls live, and how well they do at remaining anonymous, I wouldn’t be surprised if I did know a few. Anonymity and the disinhibition allowed by the internet just brings out the worst in some people I suppose.

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