Module Reflection: Trolling

As a child, I visited sites where I was protected by a screen name. Much of the trolling I had witnessed wasn’t offensive, but clever and funny. My experiences with this form of trolling left me with a relatively lighthearted approach to the topic. Working on this module encouraged me to look more into other people’s interpretations of trolling, and I found that some of them weren’t as fun as my own.

The trolling subculture is very popular. It is a product of the anonymity the web offers. I learned trolling is not just one specific act, but rather a term that describes various forms of anonymous behavior online. The type of trolling that takes place often depends upon the platform and context.

Trolling can consist of cleverly convincing someone of false information, or posting random images in a thread to derail the discussion. In these cases, the intent is not to harm or attack the audience, but to shock them. In other cases, trolls may use racist, sexist, or homophobic language to hurt their target and elicit a response. Among all possible actions, a troll seeks attention and entertainment. But why?

I learned that trolls often turn to an anonymous persona to take out their offline boredom/frustrations. They may consider life online to be an alternate reality, failing to consider the idea of interacting with their targets in real life. People tend to perceive their online network to consist of people who are like them, leading them to feel much more comfortable in expressing their opinions. Trolls are stimulated by the attention they receive from taunting others.

Trolling can definitely result in funny and entertaining posts, but even with the best of intentions can turn sour. I read an article about trolls flocking to tribute pages, where they would post pornographic images or message a dead youth’s grieving family and friends. Another experience I read about discussed the harassment of a black woman on Twitter due to an angry tweet she posted. These experiences don’t just affect people for a brief moment, the harm that this type of behavior can cause follows people offline.

For this module, my learning relied on several readings, YouTube videos, and just general observations of online behavior. I found myself relating other people’s understanding of the concept to my own. The websites that I used to frequent when I was younger left me with an interpretation of trolling that did not match some of the severe/hurtful experiences I learned about while working on this module. Trolling has the potential to entertain and improve one’s mood, but can also impact people negatively and lead to serious consequences offline.


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