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
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
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: