The word gets thrown around a lot. If you pay attention trolls are everywhere. The word is gaining such popularity that we even use it outside the virtual sphere as well, often to mean ‘trick’. It’s so popular that it has become important to define the term for social media users for them to not only understand the lingo but also to become smart surfers by recognizing trolls, avoid feeding the trolls and to counter troll.
Therefore I did some research- and I obviously went straight to ‘urban dictionary’, the best online dictionary for slang available to see what they had to say. It seems Internet users have many opinions on what trolling is– but there is a general consensus on what trolls aim to do: wreak havoc, disrupt and make others angry, because they think it’s funny. However, how they go about doing it is where the nuance lies.
First, Internet trolls must not be mistaken for the mythical, hideous creatures that live under bridges and eat little children. But as there are different trolls in mythology there are different types of Internet trolls.
Here are some of the different types of trolls I have identified, and their defining characteristics and techniques to clear things up. They all share the sae defining features, but the pranks vary. This should help you identify different trolls and use the appropriate technique to defeat said troll. Maybe you will be able Counter Troll! But first let’s identify the troll species:
Type 1: The Trickster Troll
This troll uses the art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly enraging people, usually via the Internet, using dialogue. For this troll the most essential part of trolling is convincing your victim that either a) they truly believe in what they are saying, no matter how outrageous, or b) gives their victim malicious instructions, under the guise of help, or c) gives false information and bad advice. Basically these trolls love to prank, because they can. If when on a forum, Craigslist or other someone gives you a bizarre, infuriating or confusing answer that you still don’t understand, and you’re asking yourself what is going on- chances are you were trolled.
In response to the Reddit post “TIL Jon Stewart has a brother. And he’s in charge of the New York Stock Exchange. WHAT!!? by BabylonZeitgeist in todayilearned”
“I understand your disheartenment completely, I’m surrounded with that kind of wasted talent everyday. I actually work as a senior ‘quant’, otherwise known as a quantitative analyst, at Goldman Sachs in NYC and it took a PhD in Mathematics (Concentration: Heteroskedastic Risk Modeling) from Princeton to even get a foot in the door. I’ll be honest though, a lot of the PhD’s that I work with are happy where they are; they really love the golden handcuffs. Any time one of my colleagues feels like they’re wasting their best years or merely want more money, they just go and talk to the managing director of financial services directly and they’re often promoted (i.e., sent to work as an associate in M&A or hedgefunds) or are generously provided with a large bonus. It’s funny actually, because even during the GFC the ‘big guns’ did anything and everything to retain all of the quants. That shouldn’t be surprising though as the executive board wanted to recover any and all losses with interest so it was on our shoulders to get out there, model the data, and make some money for them. It’s a terrible lifestyle sitting infront of a computer screen for 12-14 hours a day crunching numbers, but at $200k + bonuses pro rata I can’t afford to leave.”
Type 2: The Hero Troll
There is also the elusive Hero Troll, which some praise as one of many unsung Internet heroes who are almost entirely misunderstood. Contrary to popular belief, many trolls are actually quite intelligent. Their habitual attacks on forums are usually a result of their awareness of the pretentiousness and excessive self-importance of many forum enthusiasts, or of entities, or organizations etc. As much as people may hate trolls, the Hero Troll is highly effective – its actions bring much of the ignorance (or plain stupidity) of other forum users, or secret actions of authoritative of prestigious organizations, out into the great wide open. The hero troll is a trickster with a purpose they troll because they can, and because they want to bring a person or entity ‘down’. Their pranks usually have a message- they are close to the Trickster trolls, but they choose their victims more carefully.
Example: The group Anonymous is the most famous group of “Trolls” – they are hacktivists that started raids and pranks on 4chan and went on to be make much bigger “pranks” such as hacking into government and banks security system, or change entries to the Encyclopedia Dramatica online.
Type 3: The Disrupter
One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.
All trolls have these characteristics, but the Disrupter is the most commonly found type of troll, and least inventive. The Disrupter Trolls seek to make their victims (other internet users) angry, by escalading arguments into nonsense, by seeking to disrupt ‘logical’ arguments or conversations by interjecting useless comments. They just want to be a nuisance in general to other users. They can also have Hero Troll traits as they can choose to make a specific person or group angry- such as trolling racist forums, or feminist forums etc.
Trolling by the Disrupter leads to very long threads of messages (on Youtube, articles, Facebook etc.), which fuel long arguments where the troll posts annoying, false, purely argumentative messages to make the argument last longer and drive others bonkers. This is the Disrupter Troll’s specialty, and its most common form of attack.
There is a fine line between trolling and online bullying. Rude remarks designed to hurt people’s feelings on their physique, appearance, capacities and work are more bullying than trolling. A ‘hater’ is not a troll. If a celebrity gets assailed by a sea of mean tweets due to an opinion of theirs, or due to their appearance, that is not trolling, those are haters, who are ‘flaming’ a celebrity or people. Trolling does not mean just making rude remarks: Shouting swear words at someone doesn’t count as trolling; it’s just flaming, and isn’t funny. Blaming and insulting Anushka Sharma when her cricketer boyfriend loses or doesn’t play well isn’t trolling, it’s bullying and being a hater. Unless it’s on purpose to make her mad and none of the authors of the tweets actually believe it’s her fault, and it’s an elaborate prank- doubtful.
Calling out someone on a mistake, their vapidity, or uninformed remark and making a joke out of it is not always trolling- it’s poking fun. The “Alia Bhaat Moment” and memes wasn’t trolling it’s just a joke gone viral, which she took with grace. Making fun of a celebrity because of something they said that was wrong, or funny, or uninformed etc. is not trolling if someone is just pointing it out, because they’re not necessarily doing it to make the celebrity mad or trick them, but to call out their conceit, lack of awareness etc, and make fun of something they said or did.
HOW TO RESPOND TO TROLLS:
Trolls are sometimes successful but they can also utterly fail. Successful trolling will lead to:
* Victims screaming in all-caps at the troll
* Victims sending personal attacks to the troll (insults etc.)
* Victims acting as an Internet Tough Guy (threats of ‘kicking your butt’ etc)
* Victims making a crude remark and then quickly logging off before the troll can retort.
Unsuccessful trolling consists of:
* Identifying a troll as a troll
* Trolls identifying themselves as such
* Their efforts being ignored
“Do not feed the trolls!”
Therefore to win against trolls, there is one golden rule “DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS”. Getting angry, mad, confused, responding very emotionally will make trolls happy. All they want is get a rise out of you. So don’t take it personally, and don’t respond. Don’t give in! Don’t play their game and you’ll gain a lot of time by not getting into endless argumentative threads.
If you feel confident to respond then you can counter troll! Counter-trolling (or reverse trolling) is an effective method of redeeming yourself after being trolled. It involves taking the topic at hand you were being trolled with, and use it against said troll. The key is to keep your cool, and in the end not care or get mad- or else they win!
Sonakshi Sinha instead of getting angry about a rude tweet, asking her “what makes you so ugly”, answered with humor with a picture calling out the troll as a hater and in turn identifying them as the ugly deformed mouse on the picture.
Humor is the best counter troll.
It seems like we all got trolled since nobody seems to know what is going on. When using social media however be aware of trolls. Some are harmless and will just make you waste time and energy arguing, others can play more annoying and costly pranks on you- manipulating you to do something as breaking your computer, selling you a product that isn’t what you wanted, giving you a rendez-vous and not showing up etc. Trolls can be funny, but as I said before there is fine line between bullying and trolling.
Be careful what you say. The Internet never forgets, other users won’t let you forget it either.
Be vigilant. New users- the old adage of “to do onto others what you would like them to do onto you” works here too- don’t be mean, don’t troll- it’s generally just annoying. Being offensive because you can is a choice.
PS: The names of the trolls that were given are my own. They are not part of troll culture, they’re just species of trolls I identified for this quick guide.