Confession; I was a troll

A Young TrollIn my (internet) youth I was a troll, I did it for fun.

I’d pick a cryptic handle such as birds_of_paradox, and tease the other regulars on a forum. I once posed as Mrs_God to counter-troll an unpleasantly bossy Mr_God. I wasn’t ever nasty or abusive, OK maybe occasionally a low grade of mean. So for me it was adopting an anonymous handle and teasing a bunch of people. I’ve moved on, most of the stuff I post on the internet now is in my own name.

Of course I’ve encountered more sinister forms of trolls; some were simply out to challenge political views, some would play devil’s advocate against whatever the discussion was, some posted irrational statements to draw attention to themselves, some posted porn images deceptive titles, and there was the inevitable Rickrolling. I’ve even had one troll want to meet me. Er, no thanks.

But those were the good old days. Trolling seems to have gone high octane, with certain twitter posts including threats to a celebrity or their family, an Olympic athlete was abused via twitter last year, and this year’s Women’s Wimbledon champion was abused for not looking like Sharapova (interestingly a number of those twitterers have now locked or closed their account). The people doing this are using the seeming anonymity of the internet to abuse someone who doesn’t deserve it… seriously; who abuses someone for winning a grand slam tournament?

The meaning of the word has shifted in a second way, it’s not longer about teasing regulars on a forum, or challenging a collective viewpoint, or even getting an angry reaction from a message board. It seems to be used to describe anything that annoys someone somewhere on the internet, including something published by a mainstream news organisation such as the Rolling Stone’s cover photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As Salon quoted in a recent article;

“People have come to use the word ‘troll’ to mean, ‘It made me angry on the Internet,’” said Doyle. “And that’s pretty broad. It’s a big and noisy Internet.”

The meaning of words changes over time; “nice” used to mean stupid for example (and now you’ll be suspicious if I ever use it to compliment you).

But the problem here is we already have some words that work; in the first case how about “abuse” or “bully”. In the second “provocative”. It was a provocative cover, designed to provoke a reaction or challenge perceptions.

Meanwhile I’ve got some new hobbies – I’ve abandoned my troll bridge.

Any other reformed trolls out there?

Image; Trolls&Légendes 2011 /Manon Fockedey/ CC BY-ND 2.0

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