…goblin, hobgoblin, gnome, halfling, demon, monster, bugaboo, ogre…

TROLL: a mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very ugly appearance.

INTERNET TROLL: a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages…with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

CONCERN TROLL: a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the troll claims to hold.

 

OK, enough with the definitions! I find Wikipedia addictive and keep following links from one article to the other, sometimes learning but more often getting lost in my curiosity. The above “troll” explanations are a good example of this. I already knew what an Internet troll is but I discovered that “it ain’t as simple as that”.

I went looking because I continue to be startled at how vicious these anonymous ogres can be. What I discovered is that seeing a stupid, mean comment is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

For example, a million troll bots that work automatically can skew any topic and confuse even the sharpest social media user.  Then there is the bullying of young people, which has been documented to have caused suicides. And what about the Russian interference in our last Presidential election?

One solution is not to read any comments at all. But everybody likes to be affirmed so, wow, look somebody said “Great post. Keep them coming.”  Which in turn keeps us scrolling down until a troll destroys the good feeling.

There is no final answer to how anyone can stop this beyond-absurd online behavior. Awareness may be the first step to dealing with it personally but it is like kudzu, ugly and unstoppable without using toxic chemicals. So, we live with it for now, with vigilance and maybe some humor if possible.

 

Author: warrenturner

Retired United Church of Christ clergy person who drives for LYFT sometimes; partners with and backs up The Rev. Dr. Carla Jean Bailey, Senior Minister at Second Church Newton; is a very progressive Democrat; and loves felines.