Don’t feed the trolls
14 april 2020
We are currently living in times of chaos and panic caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have been closed, restrictions have been imposed on stores and shopping centers, Poland’s borders have been closed, and citizen are required to stay at home.
Every day we can observe people on online forums sharing "reliable" and "top secret" information. Chain letters and urban legends are passed on without any verification. Users spread confusion by providing second-hand information. The Internet is the fastest way to reach a large number of people and fake news, hate, and trolling are an increasingly significant threat.
Who are online trolls? What is trolling?
So-called trolls are users who aim to attract attention, provoke aggression, ridicule, and insult. Trolls try to prevent attempts to calm the discussion and refer to facts. Their main premise is to start arguments and keep them going for as long as possible. This type of online behavior is currently quite commonplace. Discrediting people, breaking rules in a discussion group, sharing links to shocking pages are typical signs of trolling. Trolling is considered hooligan and pathological behavior.
Anonymity on the web is one of the factors that is conducive to trolling. Social norms and standards are blurred, and users often lose control over their own behavior. Being anonymous gives a sense of freedom and lack of responsibility.
Thanks to the Internet, it is possible to exchange opinions without the need for direct contact. The possibility of hiding your true identity and the lack of direct contact mean that online behavior can be significantly different from behavior in real life. However, on various social networks and discussion forums, aggressive comments are sometimes written by users using their real name and surname. Many users are openly aggressive and attack others. Online conversations do not always take place in real time. Thanks to this, trolls can choose their words carefully so as to harm others as much as possible.
The phenomenon of trolling has become as common as online hate speech. In principle, however, there is a difference between trolls and haters. Trolls aim to be in the spotlight by posting provocative comments, links, or acting as victims. Haters resort to cyberbullying. They refer to others in an offensive, hateful manner. Some forms of trolling can turn into hate, especially when the discussion’s participants are provoked verbally. Strong emotions are involved and such situations can get out of control.
Just like social rules, Internet users must be aware of the rules of netiquette. Nowadays, socializing is not just limited to the real world. The Internet, with its own rules, has become an integral part of life. Breaking the rules of netiquette and disrespecting others is considered to be anti-social behavior. The inability to comply with the rules of discussion forums is a social dysfunction.
Defense against trolling
Due to the fact that children and young people spend a significant amount of their time online, it is important to help them recognize harmful behavior and content. The most effective way to protect yourself against trolling is to ignore it. Following this rule will cause trolls to lose their enthusiasm and go elsewhere. If possible, report any cases of trolling to the forum moderator or the administrator of the social network. The troll’s access will be blocked. However, sometimes trolls change their email addresses and nicknames. That is why the strategy of ignoring is the most effective.
We are going through difficult times currently. Fueling sensations on the Internet leads to unnecessary stress and anxiety. Let's remember to treat each other with respect and kindness.