For most of us, life without Internet is unimaginable. We live and breathe Internet. We express most of our opinions online. We practice Freedom of Speech online. So what if it is twisted and bent to the point of breaking? Because that is the Internet’s biggest advantage. I may not dare speaking on your face but I can sure wield the Internet as my shield and as my weapon. To viciously attack you, mostly when you are least expecting and derive a sick sadistic pleasure out of it. It doesn’t sound so unusual, does it? Weird and absurd and sick – sure, but not unusual, no!
Welcome to the word – Trolling. Google defines it as, “To make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.”
I, however, define it as a pathetic attempt to draw attention to self. Oh, no one is listening to what I have to say, no one cares for my opinions, fine, let me make them angry, let me poke them where it hurts the most, let me launch unprovoked malicious attacks. At least it will get people to notice me, and I’ll live my a-few-minutes-of-fame.
What makes me write this? It’s just that I have been repeatedly trolled. On my blogs. I have been accused of lying, exaggerating and spreading malicious rumors. But this time, it was a comment on a Facebook post of mine from a person I knew from college. No, I did not post anything remotely controversial. It was a picture of our dinner made by my husband. He couldn’t believe I’d let my husband cook for me, he couldn’t believe what a man must stoop to doing after marriage. He chastised me for calling him the in-house chef! He was my husband, and not a chef, he said! That I am lucky! His language was harsh.
This uncalled for assault shocked me. I almost felt tempted to reply. But what would I have achieved? An angry thread of conversation and some dirty accusations later, I would have only made my wall filthy and he’d have achieved what he wanted – a response from me! So I just quietly deleted his comment. And considered the matter closed.
The picture of the succulent roasted chicken my husband prepared for the dinner. It was provocative enough for the troll to start his abuse!
But was it? My husband said, the fact that this troll couldn’t imagine a man cooking for his wife as possible and the fact that he was in the same college as us and had had the same type of education as us worried him. Was he trolling or did he actually believe it? Was he just having fun harassing me or was he being serious?
That’s when it occurred to me. How can you really tell? Saying nasty things doesn’t really mean sexism or racism. Is the troll engaging in bigoted speech as a genuine display of bigotry? Is he a racist or misogynist or homophobic? How can you tell? You can’t. And that’s far less important than the effect trolling has on the victim.
You can however always tell that trolling is gendered male. They enact dominance over female population (like – how can you make your man cook for you! – in my case). Trolls have hours of free time to impose their own socio-cultural beliefs on others repeatedly and have access to technologies to enable them. In short trolls have a privileged life. Likely a better education too. What makes them tick then? Is it just the frustration of their own lives and the urge to take it out on others? Or does it run deeper? I’d never know.
My husband said to push back, to make the troll apologize. But what if he just gets nastier? I am not sure I can handle that. So I ignore my trolls. Hiding behind the hazy clouds of anonymity that is the Internet, trolls have the illusion that they aren’t responsible for what they say. They are the psychopaths, sadists in real life and Internet is their playground. Nothing you and I do will make them go away. Such people will always exist because it is so easy to get away with!
But what if this relentless trolling influences beliefs to be modified? What if being abusive to others becomes fashionable? Mankind’s future looks bleak to me!