The prevailing troll culture and "gameification" of modern social media and the internet.

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posted on Feb, 6 2013 @ 09:57 PM
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While not a particularly active member of this site, I’ve been here for a while. And I’ve been around on the internet at large far, far longer than that. I feel the need to get something off my chest that has been gradually whittling away my capacity to enjoy the internet as I once did, and from some of the comments I’ve seen here and elsewhere by others, I doubt I’m alone.

There are two facets of this issue I’d like to vent a little about.

Firstly, trolling. Now, trolls have always been around. It’s part of being online, unfortunately. But in recent years - say, the last ten or so - there has been a very distinct uptrend (in my experience) in a specific style of trolling that goes beyond just cantankerous or belligerent posting. I’m talking about this new generation of trolls who take legitimate pleasure in provoking, insulting, and arguing with others purely for the sake of doing so. The kind of online personality to whom everything is a game and a competition to be won; whose favorite form of personal amusement seems to be to pick someone passionate about something, and pick every nit they possibly can just to keep an argument going. Not because they actually disagree or even care necessarily. Purely for the sake of annoying and aggravating others.

With these individuals, it doesn’t matter how polite or courteous you are. They will say absolutely anything to try to get your goat. If you call them on their ad hominems, they just unleash even more because they can tell it bothers you and, moreover, that you won’t ever respond in kind which in their mind makes you appear weak and them “victorious” in what they believe are the eyes of their peers. If you start to make a good point or counterargument, they will bring in alt accounts specifically to make it appear that you are being ganged up upon by multiple people who share their troll tactics and sensibilities, so as to (at least attempt to) make you feel like no one could possibly agree with you and you must just be stupid or out of touch. This isn’t an assumption or exaggeration. I’ve experienced and seen proof that this actually happens. I am not talking about people who are labeled trolls for disagreeing with others. I’m talking about people who make an apparent career out of trolling both knowingly, and gladly.

Because these individuals are members of preexisting communities of people not as disingenuous as they are, it’s impossible to know when they’ll emerge or where they’ll show up. And it’s impossible to know with certainty until a certain point who is trolling and who is genuine. Thus you find yourself engaged, with good intentions and totally naive honesty and forthrightness, in a debate with someone whose only goal, unbeknownst to you, is to annoy and harass. It is perhaps the greatest source of wastes of time, energy, and emotion on the internet because you can spend inordinate amounts of time trying to have a genuine, polite discussion with all the good intentions in the world, with someone who has no intention of reciprocating, and no means of identifying them until they “out” themselves by stepping across a line or playing their hand.

The second facet I’d like to talk about is the “gameification” of online communities. You know what I mean. The ability to “vote up” or “downvote,” “like” or “dislike” everything on the internet. While ATS doesn’t have a downvote system, it might as well, because the presence and lack of stars still creates a duality of perceived quality (or even “rightness” in some people’s minds) and the lack thereof. In my opinion these sorts of systems take the emphasis off of the content of posts, and transform honest discussion into popularity contests. Granted, many people couldn’t care less about how many “likes” a post gets, but especially to the younger online generations, this appears to be a central concern. Sometimes rewards are even attached to this dynamic, by letting you “level up” if you receive enough “likes.”

The reason this ties into trolling is that trolls will often use multiple alt accounts or simply fellow trolls to bolster their “like” count, adding further perceived legitimacy to their insulting diatribes, thus enhancing their ability to harass and annoy. It creates scenarios where one can have something said to them by the troll like, “Well that’s because you’re a moron,” which gets dozens of upvotes, and you can say something like, “I will not engage in ad hominem attacks as you have. I respect your opinion, but respectfully disagree,” but get dozens of downvotes. Partly because of the aforementioned group or alt trolling tactics, but also - perhaps more disturbingly - because of the emerging trollish culture of the internet where insults are seen as “zingers” and decorum is seen as weakness or feebleness.

And that troll “culture” and mentality online is my real concern, and one of my great disappointments in life. The internet is possibly the greatest invention for facilitating communication and understanding in all of human history. That’s quite a statement, but I believe it to be true personally. That it is largely populated today by ego-driven, in my opinion adolescent, attitudes of hyper-competitiveness and “gameification,” and that as a result thought takes a back seat to defeating others in asinine arguments, makes me legitimately sad and frustrated.

Yes, we have the capacity to simply ignore these individuals. But only after wasting considerable time and energy discussing something in good faith with them before discovering their true motives. And that’s both a shame, and an offense in my opinion. But much more worrying to me is a fear I harbor that this trend is merely an online manifestation of an attitude beginning to prevail in general among people in "real life" as well. That being, the attitude of dog eat dog, everything being a competition, win at any cost, the inability to truly listen to one another, and the inability to tolerate simple difference of opinion, no matter how passionate. We see it all the time in our political discourse today. That I can readily compare our politics to internet trolling is definite cause for concern or at least lament, is it not?

That’s all I have to say. Peace.
edit on 2/6/2013 by AceWombat04 because: Typo
edit on 2/6/2013 by AceWombat04 because: Typo




posted on Feb, 6 2013 @ 10:10 PM
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3 words
dis in fo

also.. i was trolling before it was cool .. LOL



posted on Feb, 6 2013 @ 10:36 PM
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Originally posted by 0mage
3 words
dis in fo

also.. i was trolling before it was cool .. LOL


Damn Hipster troll.


Anyway, I agree op and it can be very disheartening to have to deal with agitators and try to have a meaningful discussion/debate on a site like Ats.
I have seen Ats gradually turn into a -one liner, drive by insult fest at times as opposed to what it was designed to be. Its resembles a 'comments section' of a news site sometimes.
Do you have a solution though?
What would you suggest?

The only thing I can think of is to have a subscription section for members who wish to discuss topics in a grown up and courteous manner, part of but also seperate from the main sections .
A nominal fee (say $/€/£ 10 per year) which you lose with a ban, would put a damper on multiple accounts and moronic trolling. I love Ats and have learned a lot from some Intelligent people who generously share their knowledge here.
Just my two cents.
edit on 6-2-2013 by HumansEh because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 6 2013 @ 10:42 PM
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There is also another side to this.

People who question a thread starter or who disagree with certain points are often labled a troll and told to bugger off before a conversation even develops.

I've noticed a huge increase in this type of behavior also. Its as if somebody posts something and expects that everyone should/needs to agree with them.



posted on Feb, 6 2013 @ 10:47 PM
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Originally posted by Spookycolt
There is also another side to this.

People who question a thread starter or who disagree with certain points are often labled a troll and told to bugger off before a conversation even develops.

I've noticed a huge increase in this type of behavior also. Its as if somebody posts something and expects that everyone should/needs to agree with them.


Yes, that's very true. I thought about addressing that in more detail in my post, because it's also an element of this whole dynamic that is very unfortunate and just as frustrating. But it was already waxing verbose, so I just limited myself to saying, "I am not talking about people who are labeled trolls for disagreeing with others. I’m talking about people who make an apparent career out of trolling both knowingly, and gladly."

Peace.



posted on Feb, 6 2013 @ 10:48 PM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Very good o/p couldn't agree more.But you know what is going to happen.


"SEND IN THE CLOWNS' (Troll's)



posted on Feb, 6 2013 @ 11:21 PM
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reply to post by HumansEh
 


Sadly, no. I don't have a solution. Apart from what you suggest, at least. Which might not be a bad idea at all actually upon reflection. But the problem is that banning and subscriptions elsewhere haven't stopped trolling either. There are actually people online who will pay money to annoy people and then get banned. And then at least attempt to try another IP and create another account and do it all again. I know it sounds crazy, but it totally happens.

Some of it is people in MMOs and other online gaming communities who act that way in-game (griefers, etc.) carrying their mentality into discussions (which is not to bash gaming; I've been a gamer for nearly 30 years and am very passionate about it.) Some of it is... honestly? I don't know what it is. I don't relate to the mentality enough to truly comprehend its origins or components.
I just know I don't like it. Hence this being in the rant section.

Peace.
edit on 2/6/2013 by AceWombat04 because: typo



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 08:54 AM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 
I believe this sort of behavior is a symptom of a generation. We have a whole generation of people brought up to believe everyone is special, everyone is a winner, everyone gets a trophy (read a thread complaining of this recently). Now these kids have become adults and have been rudely awakened to the fact that real life doesn't work that way. Because they are losing that feeling of specialness from being abruptly confronted by reality they seek a way to feel special again- and popularity on the internet is an outlet for that. If they can't get likes or stars from prolific posting they will attempt to get them from insults and contrariness. In the way of an attention hungry child bad attention is better than no attention, and others who are just as attention hungry as they are will jump into the fray to give their support and to garner their own attention. It's sad really, but I suspect the trend will be on going.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 09:18 AM
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While I can confirm the obeservations made by the thread author, I see a very simple reason for the increase in described behaviour.

The internet has evolved from the nerd-thing that it was back in the 90ies. Nowadays you can sign up for a DSL flat-rate for 20 bucks at walmart, and every kid has an iphone or an android phone with internet access. So the same people trampling themselves to death at super sale days represent the majority in the www nowadays. Simple as that.

So what we're experiencing is .. let me put it bluntly .. the arrival of the uneducated and brainwashed masses in the interwebz, and not an epidemic increase of trolls in the general population.

The University of Tokyo already warned us back in 2001 after analyzing the worldwide network traffic, but we didn't listen.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 11:51 AM
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S&F

I've wanted to write something about this same thing for a long time but didn't feel like I could articulate it quite right. Well done sir.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 11:52 AM
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I see the trolling and 'game-ification' mentioned in the OP as sort of the 'Honeymoon Period' that we all must necessarily go through as we become intimate with the power that is inherent in massively networked computer systems.

The point system, the 'game-ification' is there because people want it, people recognize and want the power of being able to express their opinions in the most nuanced way possible. That's because the web has all the personality of a brick all by itself, the only thing that gives it the illusion of life is users creating content.

I also think that even if people can't really articulate it, they sense the power that the web has for altering context, and therefore perception, and they sense how wielding an anonymous web-presence might be an easier route playing with that power than actually getting up in front of people and saying what they have to say.

To try and put it more simply; people sense what can be done to them with this technology, they are learning to do it back, and through this process they will learn to recognize it when they see it. If you've done it to someone else, then it's easier to see it when it is being done to you.

These are skills we need for the immediate future and no one is going to teach us about them or even really mention them. So folks are picking it up on their own.

Narrative, context, the ability to tweak the emotions of large groups of people via writing; these are aspects of human communication that we have all been able to not worry so much about because they were confined to print. The web unleashes it directly in to our daily, immediate lives, and the stuff is mostly used in attack mode; someone payed for it to have an effect, not just sit there.

So, it's OK, we need to get good at this stuff.
edit on 7-2-2013 by Xoanon because:




posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 11:53 AM
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Yeah OP, we should have global internet ID's so there can be an actual face behind the name and nobody will get away with what they say!

/sarcasm

The internet is the Wild West and it should stay that way.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 12:07 PM
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reply to post by wWizard
 





The internet is the Wild West and it should stay that way.


Damn straight, pardner.

We aren't going to learn crap unless it actually gets, 'worse'.




posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 12:12 PM
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Originally posted by Xoanon
reply to post by wWizard
 





The internet is the Wild West and it should stay that way.


Damn straight, pardner.

We aren't going to learn crap unless it actually gets, 'worse'.



We're learning nothing now and you want it "worse"? By feeding this culture it's guaranteed that we will continue to gain NO ground. Too damn busy trying to WIN.

OP, well said. I wanted to but you did it SO much better.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 12:14 PM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Some of the best points I've ever made in a discussion were replies to an obvious troll. See, you've already fallen into a trap thinking you will convince anyone of anything on the internet. You won't. Just because the other party in a thread can't do anything but spew half literate insults, doesn't change the quality of the content YOU post.

Trolling sucks, but it permeates every aspect of online life.

dating sites? mostly fake profiles, usually to get your $$ but sometimes just to screw with your mind
forums? Lol addressed in this thread much more eloquently that i could ever attempt.
Gaming? since the very first multiplayer game that allowed you to "accidentally" kill a teammate, there has been trolling.

but instead of blaming this on a "generation of everyone gets a trophy for trying" and realize, kids have always acted out in such ways, have always done what they thought would make them more popular. the only difference is the tool being used, social media. blaming it on "this new generation" just makes you sound like a grumpy old fart who doesn't even remember their own childhood.

When I was young, very young, elementary school young, I fell into the trap of wanting to look "cool" in front of people, wanting to be "popular" One of the methods was to join in the bullying of another kid, everyone loves a common enemy.

Now they can do it on the internet, anonymously. Personally, I don't think actual "trolling" is that much of an issue here at ATS, I don't see it often compared to any other forum I've used. Instead, if you have a different opinion, you are a troll. That's how the bulk of the ATS community now functions.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 12:16 PM
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reply to post by intrepid
 





We're learning nothing now and you want it "worse"? By feeding this culture it's guaranteed that we will continue to gain NO ground. Too damn busy trying to WIN.


If you can't learn to ignore loud mouthed idiots online, and in real life, then I feel bad for you. Don't feed the trolls, it really is that simple, even if trollface isn't listening and only replying with attacks, you can still post up your heartfelt theories for the rest of us.

In fact, it's a skill to be able to counter and ignore the trolls that i think a lot of people here already have.

p.s. as for likes and stars, the only people that seems concerned with that are those posting threads that don't get many.... just my thoughts



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 12:18 PM
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reply to post by phishyblankwaters
 


You obviously haven't come across me often on the board. I have NO problem dealing with trolls. I'm just rying to help out others.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 12:33 PM
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Originally posted by Spookycolt
There is also another side to this.

People who question a thread starter or who disagree with certain points are often labled a troll and told to bugger off before a conversation even develops.

I've noticed a huge increase in this type of behavior also. Its as if somebody posts something and expects that everyone should/needs to agree with them.


I don't see that happen very often; instead, I see inflammatory, poorly thought out posts made by someone who didn't take the time to read an actual OP derailing entire threads. For example, someone takes their time to make a decent thread about, say, gay marriage. 5 posts down, some fundamentalist Christian comes along and says something along the lines of, "God say's homosexuality is an abomination, so it must be so. I don't care what anybody says!" All of a sudden, a thread about GAY MARRIAGE turns into a debate about the existence of god and whether homosexuality is okay or not.

People who question the OP are doing a good thing; people who make idiotic comments and hold adamantly to their narrow-minded views, on the other hand, are not.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 12:40 PM
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I am very pleased about your dissembly of the troll phenomenon.

Long ago, I struggled with some of the ideas you are talking about... (www.abovetopsecret.com...) but in retrospect, I had much less experience then than I do now in dealing with the vicissitudes of trollish conduct.

Glad you took the time to compose this OP.

Thanks.



posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 01:09 PM
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Your headline is an absolutely correct statement. But who are you to say the culture of social media cannot develop outside the way you decide you want it to?





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