In 1986, if you mentioned the word “troll”, people would think you either meant the movie above or were discussing fairy tales about castles and bridges. In 2013, the term is used for those who use the internet to provoke a response from others. UrbanDictionary.com defines it as “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”
The reason I am discussing this is that I enjoy getting my news from various internet sources and my favorite is syracuse.com. I love the variety of the stories and opinions and seeing what is going on in the community. I have met some of the staff and I am proud to support them and their work. In fact, other than prodigy chat rooms, my favorite memory of my first experiences on the internet were reading stories on their page. Heck, I even participated in one of their pizza challenges and had a great experience.
Unlike the newspaper days, you can add comments to a story after reading them on websites like theirs and not just read the paper and toss it only discussing it with those you know. And herein lies the problems that finally brings us back to the topic, those who troll these articles simply to either make themselves look like the cool kid in class or because they are miserable and want to share it with everyone else. Do so many people actually have such a negative view on life or are they simply like this “troll” below?
Let me state this right now, I have no problem with those who believe differently than I do. In fact, I rather enjoy a fun debate from time to time on most issues. I also do not claim to be a member of either party and I like to be open to hearing other ideas. This does not make me weak, it makes me open to learning about new people and new experiences. I don’t care what party you vote for at election time; if we can get along, you are more than welcome to party with me.
And I am also not referring to those who want to add a bit of humor occasionally to a subject as long as the content is not of a sensitive nature. I do that on various sites myself, including recently on NunesMagician.com when I asked Sean if Netflix was a VCR brand to joke about my lack of using many modern forms of media as well as my age. Someone else may say otherwise but I do not consider those trolling. Nor do I think responding to someone on Twitter or Facebook who differs from you a reasonable response to their opinion.
The problem is, trolling is when you do it simply to be a jerk and post negatively in the hopes of starting a verbal battle over a debate. If you go onto a post about a free concert by the local symphony and turn that into a liberal vs. conservative battle, you are trolling for a reaction (or as some would say you are now troll, troll, trolling your boat). If you visit a fan site of a team you dislike on a regular basis just to tell them they suck or mock their top players, you are trolling. If every article about President Obama you read causes you to simply call him a socialist, you are trolling.
So when is it not trolling in my opinion? When you add an opinion to the situation and not simply try to, as Urban Dictionary worded it so well, “cause a massive disruption and argument” but actually add to the conversation with an actual point. The great thing about this country is the freedoms we have to express our views and participate in such great debates. However over the years it seems, with the growth of the internet has come the growth of dumbing-dumb issues and resorting to bickering and name calling as if our best defense is a 5 year old kid saying, “I know you are but what am I”.
Now, have I been guilty of trolling? To a certain extent, I guess varying on your viewpoint, I have done it myself. Some issues I do take personally and when I see someone spreading negativity, I can;t just sit idly by and be quiet. I can’t sit by and watch when no matter your opinions on gay marriage, you publicly call for their harm or have zero tolerance that it is their lifestyle and their choice. I can’t go quietly into the night when you bash children who volunteer to try and make a difference or mock a death as a family mourns following an accident. And I have zero tolerance for bullying. So I guess sometimes when I know someone is going around trolling for responses on issues that have such an impact on me, I occasionally go back in to discuss the issue further and ensure people who simply want to discuss an issue intelligently or leave a comment of concern are allowed to do so and have someone to support them. I also find sometimes others will support it when they feel comfortable with others also sharing their view so I won’t give up just because the trolls have taken over.
I understand our world is not perfect and we all have differing opinions. That is why I enjoy Twitter because I may not always agree with you but sometimes I enjoy hearing others opinions and hopefully learning from them. My problem is, why can’t we all simply enjoy a discussion without trying to always incite a riot? Of course I would enjoy it if we all stood around a campfire, making S’mores and sing Kumbaya as we all hold hands but I am also realistic. Or as Walt Disney once said “I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”
My purpose in writing this is not to bash any particular website because it happens everywhere (I have even witnessed it on sites that require Facebook or ID to comment and in all cities and states). I also do not expect to change the world tomorrow with this blog post and if you think I am preaching or getting on my moral soapbox, I am sorry you feel that way. I simply want to discuss why it seems so hard to just have rational discussions on an adult level when we should wish to set higher standards for ourselves and set positive examples for others. I do not have the answers and I am not perfect but I would love to wake up one day and find we live in a world where we can discuss topics without name calling and provoking anger. Where we can be different and not fear for bullying or trolls upsetting us in a time when many of us are already stressed out over so much. Then again, when most of our leaders can’t discuss issues but resort to character assassination instead of facts and solutions, where is the hope that those they set the examples for will do any better?