I have been a part of the online social community Facebook for nearly 7 years now. Posting pictures and statuses, commenting on friends’ pictures and posts, watching cat videos; basically scrolling through Facebook in general. I do not comment my views on the news, no matter how biased, unfair or wrong I feel the news might be. I learned this the hard way, of course. I once made the mistake of typing my thoughts in the comment section of a news wherein I plainly put forth my disagreement. However, I was terribly trolled by people who failed to see the point I was trying to make. These people did not shy away from making the meanest, misogynistic remarks I had ever heard.
Internet, and more specifically the social platforms, is the hub and thriving place for the trolls. And who are these people? Trolls are the ones you would find in the comments section, making snarky, hate-filled, misogynist, racist remarks even on the sweetest of videos, posts, photos or articles. It doesn’t matter how sensible or soft-spoken as a person you might be, making the trolls see the reasonable and rational side can be quite a task. Not that I am asking you to make them realize their shit. Arguing with trolls is like a pit of quick sand, the more you flail your hands, the more you sink.
But what makes a troll tick? According to studies, trolls basically exhibit personalities that make up the Dark Tetrad- psychopathy (lack of empathy), sadism (deriving pleasure by making others suffer), narcissism (self-obsession) and Machiavellianism (manipulating others). Along with this, the anonymity that the internet provides also largely contributes to such behaviours. Anyone can be anything behind the screens where they are free from the obligation to act according to predetermined norms. Anonymity, therefore, is another most definite reason for the cyber bullies to act the way they do.
However, a recent joint study conducted by the Standford and Cornell universities has concluded that apart from those who possess the aforementioned behavioral traits, normal human beings too have the ability to be trolls. According to the research, there are two main factors that contribute to troll-like behavior in otherwise seemingly normal people: the tone of other comments and the mood of the person. If the previous commentators have said something nasty, the following commentators too are tempted to type in something equally nasty. The tone and the context of discussion go a long way in determining a person’s response. If a discussion commences with what can be called as a troll-like comment then the other commentators are twice as likely to comment in the same tone.
A person’s mood too plays an integral part in how he/she behaves in an online environment. If a person is in a negative mood, they are most likely to exhibit troll-like behavior. According to another study, trolling is more persistent during Sunday nights and Monday mornings. So if you are feeling particularly cranky on a Monday morning, you know what not to do! Don’t get into unnecessary debates or arguments on the internet. Don’t resort to personal attacks on strangers or take their bullying seriously. Some people love making mean comments and take pleasure in others’ sadness.
As important as it is to understand how and why trolls behave the way they do, it is also equally important that people understand the difference between troll comments and the comments that show people disagreeing to the post. Negative comments are not always troll comments but rather might be just a difference of opinion. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and not everyone will have the same opinion of things the way you do. Everyone also has the choice to disagree to others’ views. Let’s not turn to hate-spewing. Let’s have civilized discussions and put forth dissents in an equally civilized manner. Always know that a crowd has the ability to either be a peaceful march or a destructive mob.