Topics seem to arrive here like ocean waves. One day it’s all self growth and the next it’s all feminism and it feels a bit like a desperate human offering seventeen different foods to a finicky cat that won’t eat. This one, maybe?
Lately, I’ve seen a lot of articles about trolls and trolling, and some of them make me wonder if people even know what a troll is.
Monsters who hide in darkness...
That’s what Time author Joel Stein calls them in his Time magazine piece, How Trolls are Ruining the Internet
Anonymity, as they say, is a troll’s best friend. Because, you can say anything you want when no one knows who you are.
A feminist writer, she regularly gets rape threats, death threats, and violent photos of dead bodies sent in response to her writing. One particularly pernicious troll impersonated her recently-deceased father on Twitter, even using his photo. All to provoke her.
I was fully “doxxed” … and that comes in while I’m also getting really frightening messages about my death and … violent photographs of dead bodies.
Anonymously, of course. That’s the key.
According to Wikipedia, a troll is a person who hides behind anonymity and posts inflammatory messages with the intent of upsetting people and provoking emotional responses. Often, trolls also galvanize other trolls into joining forces for a full out attack on the hapless victim or their readers.
Often, trolls don’t even believe the stuff they’re saying. They’re not saying it because they believe it. They might believe it. Belief isn’t the point. They’re saying things to hurt and provoke the people they’re targeting.
Trolling is a GAME
It’s a horrible, ugly game that’s played by preying on people’s emotions, but make no mistake — it is a game. Trolls win at the trolling game when they get the biggest and most outrageous melt-down responses to what they said.
Women, feminists in particular, are common targets because it’s a more sure win. Rape threats and dick pics, violent photos and misogynistic comments are winning moves because they almost always get the reaction they seek.
Racist slurs against women of color and overweight women are an almost sure win for a troll, too. (No one wants to rape you, fattie)
Why do they do it?
For the “lulz,” apparently. For laughs. When their victims do not share in the lulz, trolls tell them they have no sense of humor, as if racial slurs, death threats, rape threats and rampant misogyny were ever funny.
That’s what trolling is.
What isn’t trolling
There’s a lot of crappy behavior on the internet. Not all of it is trolling.
1) If they aren’t anonymous, they’re not a troll
Milo Yiannopoulos is not a troll. Donald Trump is not a troll. Folks, they’re putting their hateful opinions out there using their real name and they’re damn proud of those opinions. When people use their real name and don’t even bother hiding, they’re a-holes, not trolls.
2) Abuse isn’t trolling
Trolls are abusive, that’s true. Abuse is a great tool for the troll because it gets the response they’re looking for. But people can be abusive without also being a troll. Are they hiding in the dark of anonymity? No? A-hole, not troll.
3) Misogynists aren’t all trolls
A lot of trolls are misogynists. True again. Misogyny is a great troll tool, because it gets the reaction they’re looking for. But not all misogynists are trolls. Lots of misogynists are quite happy to share their beliefs without targeting anyone specifically. Often, under their own name. Proudly.
4) Not all racists are trolls
Same again. Trolls are often racist, but there’s plenty of racists that aren’t trolls. They’re not hiding behind anonymity — no, no — these folks want you to know exactly what they think. A-hole, not troll.
5) Being rude isn’t trolling
Some people have few manners. And by some, I mean holy hell, wtf is wrong with so many people? I get it. There’s a lot of rude out there. But being rude and being a troll are not necessarily the same. Again.Are they monsters in the dark, hiding behind anonymity to provoke and incite? No? A-hole, not troll.
6) Miscellaneous misfits aren’t all trolls
At risk of repeating myself, there’s a myriad of miscellaneous misfits skulking around. Bullies, psychopaths, white supremacists, incels, homophobes, haters and jerks — they are not all trolls. Are they hiding in the dark of anonymity to insult and incite? No? A-hole, not troll.
7) Disagreeing with you isn’t trolling
I shouldn’t need to say this, but just because someone disagrees with you, or posts a contradicting perspective, that doesn’t make them a troll. Good grief, it’s not trolling to have a different opinion. Are we really that delicate? Are they hiding behind anonymity to provoke, incite, threaten or galvanize? No?
Words mean things for a reason
English is messed up, I get it. We have words that have opposite definitions. (Like sanction, which is a penalty for disobeying, and also permission.)
But still — words mean things for a reason. How are we supposed to communicate if what you call the lawn is what I call the sky? You know?
I don’t know if people don’t understand what trolling is because the word is thrown around so much… or if they’re deliberately misusing the word. Maybe they’re just trolling us to get a reaction, like this post. In which case, good one.