Steam Profile

Friday, January 11, 2013

Send in the Trolls

I had so much fun writing yesterday. Not only did I manage to generate feedback from many of you out there, I also picked up my first few trolls. Like the beginning Blogger I am, I fed them and they kept me entertained for a few hours. They also serve as a reminder, there are always going to be people in the world, who would love nothing more than to see everything, including the human race, burn to the ground. It's sad, but I think those types of people will always be with us. I want to focus a little more about Trolls today, because the anonymity of the Internet allows for everyone to be a potential troll. 

I think trolls are a representation of baser human instincts to be aggressive, dominating, and savage, un-tethered by the confines of accepted societal behavior and free of the fear of consequences real-life imposes on such behavior. Most people would not dare act in such a manner in public, but the Internet allows for a person to anonymously act, without the fear of immediate physical consequences. They find courage through a barrier of anonymity, or they feel they are removed enough from others to be safe from real world retaliation. Others sometimes join in on this behavior, in much the same way real life people join in during a riot, otherwise known as the mob mentality. 

The problem with trolls, isn't their actions per se, obviously they are entitled to the same free speech and expression the rest of us enjoy, and it is that they serve as detractors from the important issues which need to be debated in our society. They have no desire to solve problems, work with others, or contribute to public discourse in any kind of meaningful way. People who feed them, while amusing and entertaining at times, encourage this behavior. Parents who do not monitor their children's online activities, allow the behavior from their children, and Adults who troll are often not held accountable, until recently. 

Trolling has been gaining infamy lately, not just in the United States. During 2011 in the United Kingdom, a Man was arrested for trolling a schoolgirl who committed suicide, by posting abusive messages online. In fact the U.K. has several examples of Trolls being arrested for various offences. The trend hasn't quite made it to the United States yet; However, a new strategy has been developed, which seems to be effective. A few months ago Gawker, the current events and self-proclaimed gossip site, outed the notorious troll Violentacrez, from the social news site, Reddit. The Troll is 49-year-old computer programmer, Michael Brutsch, who until recently worked at a Texas financial services company. See, what happened was Michael, thought it would be a bright idea to troll Reddit's forums like Misogyny, Incest, Creepshots, and encourage men to take sexualized pictures of women in public while stalking them. 

While this particular troll may not be criminally liable for their behavior, this case does highlight the danger online trolls can be. The rules of society do not always apply on the Internet, because we as a society have chosen not to enforce those rules. When the Internet first came into popular use, people were free to create an online persona, of their choosing. This made anonymity and the ability to create a persona on one’s choice, liberated a person from social confines; However, in our world today the Internet is made up of more than anonymous people, with anonymous lives. Social Networking sites allow real people to digitally connect to others, making the Internet a digital extension of real life in many ways. Yes, there are still those who have the ability or choice to create a false persona; However, popular sites such as Facebook, are designed for real people to connect with other real people. This is a stark distinction from what the Internet was in its infancy. 

We may be limited in how we address the issue of Internet trolls in the United States. Certainly not feeding them has worked in the past, as many trolls seem to crave the attention. I doubt the United States will ever take the route the U.K. has and hold people criminally accountable for their destructive behavior online; Although, the Gawker strategy of exposing the real life person behind the Internet troll, has proven to have an impact in the real world. Michael Brutsch was fired from his real life job, shortly after his exploits online were made public, so there can be real world consequences for online actions, if we are willing to go the step necessary to hold people accountable for their online actions. Ultimately, like many other things in life the choice is up to each one of us how we choose to proceed when it comes to handling an online troll. I think they serve as reminders of what our society is really like underneath the veneer of social rules we follow and how easily human beings can revert to a destructive and primal nature when the consequences for ones actions removed from the equation. Maybe we can learn something by addressing this issue as a society?