Understanding the Psyche of the Troll
Ah, the Internet troll. Observe him in his natural habitat.
Since the first trolls began making appearances in the 90s, the connotations of that term have evolved. It used to be restricted to someone who would post inflammatory, derogatory comments on Internet forums or chat rooms (as defined by PCMag.com). As commonly understand, he did this in order to either vent his feelings or to provoke a hostile response. He was a ‘flamer’.
(Troll Face, in the picture, is a popular rage face character.)
Other cases of trolling, however, might not be so harmless and might in some cases be classified as cyberbullying, a serious issue faced by Internet users today.
For instance, the cyberbullies that defaced a Facebook memorial page dedicated to a Long Island teenager who committed suicide in 2010 would have been considered trolls by their own right. They posted provoking comments mocking the girl and gruesome images of her.
In a chilling trend, cyberbullies have also defaced the Facebook pages of other teens who commit suicide. More recently, 15-year-old Amanda Todd hung herself after being provoked by trolls, who refused to leave her in peace, even in her grave. One man lost his job after leaving, “It’s about time this b—- died,” on her memorial page, but that has been the extent of the action authorities are able to take on trolls.
It is a baffling trend. Why do trolls troll? What pleasure do they derive from harassing people online, whether in big or small ways?
Perhaps it is the anonymity the Internet provides us. In normal social situations, we are responsible for our behaviour because the words we speak are immediately associated with ourselves. However, behind the mask of username666, for example, trolls might feel that a forum or chat room is an outlet to vent their frustrations or break from social norm without having to be responsible for their behaviour.
Believing that the Internet is a breeding ground for such behaviour, Putera Muhammad Ashraf, 24, says: “I think by now people should understand to not simply trust the stuff placed on the Internet.
“Unless it’s from a trusted source, like a corporate body, where you can claim your customer’s right, or something.”
A corporate body? And what about Google’s elaborate April Fool’s prank this year to trick users into thinking they were shutting down YouTube?
“Yes, but that was April’s Fool. All is forgiven, no?” he laughs.
I ask if he then believes that exceptions can be made, after all, and where should the line be drawn?
“Of course exceptions can be made. The Internet wouldn’t be the Internet if we didn’t have fools trolling each other for a good laugh.
“I think if its all in fun and games, it’s fine, but if jokes are pushed aside and emotions and privacy are placed under threat, it’s no longer cool.”