-Zenia Zuraiq, I Year B.Sc Physics
Image Source: Google
Trolls. Those unmasked, anonymous internet predators – looking to just annoy a few people or engage in actually harmful discourse and defilement. Calling trolls bullies is underestimating them, because they have so much more impact and reach than those ordinary bullies. The characterization of all trolls as misunderstood, young children being naughty is extremely reductionist at this point.
In the world of social media, trolls could also mean anything nasty — from vicious barbs to unkind memes. These are not the trolls of fairy tales, but viral digital motifs that can easily wreck a person’s life or end a filmmaker’s career. Trolls are, therefore, to be greatly feared.
Trolling has now gone to unhealthy levels – with targets and specific attacks being made on people in the public spotlight. Trolling has gone from light hearted ribbing to cybercrime – with the emergence of phenomenona like ‘doxxing’, the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting private or identifiable information (especially personally identifiable information) about an individual or organization. Trolls now have the ability to shape and influence public discourse, opinions – and in some case, what is considered to be facts.
This influence is what we need to be wary of. This is best exemplified in the 2016 US Presidential Election. It seems that the old motif of ‘all attention is good attention’ is proving itself true. The 2016 US Presidential election was an event filled with inflammatory memes and trolls, both right and left – each trying to get ahead of the other. What this did was essentially shut down all probability of any intelligent discourse. All scope for nuance and/or debate is lost in a frenzy of dirty tricks and name calling. There are no gray areas – just angry shouting and hateful accusation. Whether you agree with the outcome of the election or not, it is undeniable that troll culture played a significant role in the eventual result.
It is extremely important that we do not let negativity rule our public discourse in this fashion. The most important to remember is – whether it is real life or the internet, our words carry meaning. Very few of us actually consider the weight of our words and the effect they have on people. Impact is a powerful thing, and it is in all our best interests that we use it wisely.
Here’s to moving to more nuanced discourse.