I’m not even exactly certain of what a troll is. I mean, I am, in the Hans Christian Andersen sense of the term, but not in the Internet sense.
I suppose I could google it and come up with a few definitions but they’d all talk about “someone who gives unasked for responses to social media posts” or something. It may throw in a bit about it being negative or obscene or cynical or nasty. I don’t know, something along those lines. I’m not going to bother to look it up. We all know what I’m talking about.
I have a problem with the whole idea of trolling. I put that badly. I have a problem with the concept of a troll. I think that, as with anything, there is a point at which something, anything, crosses a line but that which is labeled trolling most often isn’t.
Let me try to explain that. Social media is open to public view. You have a choice to protect your interactions from public view. Let’s face it though, the narcissistic streak in those who gravitate to the use of social media doesn’t want to hide from the rest of the world those life-changing photos of their brunch or feelings on the actual colour of that ridiculous dress.
So, here’s the scenario. You put something out for all the world to see on a forum that provides for people to comment on your post. They return comments. You love this. In a world where social credibility is measured by ‘likes’, ‘follows’, ‘favorites’, ‘RTs’ and the like you feel really good about yourself. You regularly check your ‘followers’, keep a tally of your ‘friends’, employ software to see how many people you follow actually follow you back, consult other software that tells you the reach of your posts and even (you don’t have to admit this) follow those posts that guarantee you followers. Awesome. You are loved, respected and feel validated.
There’s nothing wrong with social media or wanting to your voice to be heard in a world where it is constantly drowned out by the billions of other voices also trying to be heard. Mostly you’re probably looking for some attention (we all crave it and don’t receive it often enough) or even just some conversation. As someone with social anxiety issuesI feel strongly that social media offers me an opportunity to interact with people who I would normally shy away from. It is good for me. (Pocket, pseudo pop psychologists pick up your pens.)
Enter the person who gives you the wrong attention. Who disagrees with you. Who points out your naivety or the incorrectness of your assertion. Oh! The bastard. Get off my TL you troll.
Really? You loved the positive attention of those who agreed that all soldiers, regardless of the morality of their war, are heroic warriors. You thought the people who agreed that the threat of Islamic ideology is a curse to right minded people the world over were wonderfully rational thinkers. The support shown for the lovable Steve Hofmeyer brought tears of nationalist joy to your eyes. You fought causes like the crusaders of old. When that didn’t work you posted selfies of your biceps, cleavage or worse (Maybe that should be ‘better’. Who am I to judge?). The agreement of so many people that there are monkeys running parliament just underscored your role as a valid social commentator.
And that’s just the thing; it feeds your craving for social validation.
Enter, again, the naysayer. The troll. That raging puss filled boil on the face of sacred social media. Where do these people come from? Why do they do this? Who. Gives. Them. The. Right?
Who gives them the right? Why, silly, you did. You did when you posted your thoughts on a forum open to comment from anyone anywhere in the world. Simple as that.
When you ventilate an opinion on an open forum you are in fact inviting comments. What did you think the ‘reply’ field is for? Does Facebook have a thumbs down symbol? No? You’re probably safer there.
You’re not going to like them all. But you asked for them. And, man, are you going to get them.
If your longing for social validation can’t stand up to criticism you need to close your account. If your narcissistic tendencies and lack of self esteem can’t stand up in the stiff breeze of opposition, well, actually there’s probably a place for you in politics. Really, what is it you’re looking for, cheerleaders? Get thee a Mac Maharaj. How shallow are you?
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room, I’m not much different to those I’ve referred here – why do you think I know how you feel? But, a draw an important distinction. Troll me. Fight with me. Correct me. Indicate the narrowness of my world view. Call me an arsehole. Make me change my mind. I’ve asked for it. Lay it on me.
I promise you I can take it. When you’re just offensive I won’t engage with you. I’m not compelled to.
In my world trolls are fairytale characters that live under bridges.