As our lives increasingly take place online, we are more and more likely to encounter a troll. For those not in the know, a troll is
someone who posts inflammatory,extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion [from the Font Of All Human Knowledge, oops, I mean Wikipedia].
Note that: the troll’s primary motive is to get an emotional response or disrupt normal on-topic discussion. He doesn’t know what colour you are, how much money you earn or if you’re an obese thirty-something who lives in his mom’s basement (unless you’ve already put that info out there for him to discover) – he’s just pushing buttons, hoping for an outraged reaction.
This is what pisses me off about the Patrice Muamba Twitter troll, When Liam Stacey made a nasty tweet about footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsing a match, he attracted a number of bad tweets himself – to which he reacted with a few more abusive messages. Am I defending Stacey? No. I am defending his right to say what he said. The fact he was jailed for those tweets is shocking, and does not bode well for those among us who dreamt fleetingly that the internet might be a last bastion for freedom of expression.
So how do we deal with trolls? Wikihow’s somewhat aged advice is still valid: ignore the dickhead. If no one had bothered with Stacey’s crap, he would’ve soon enough moved on to something else. It’s only because Muamba’s faithful following leapt in to defend their idol that Stacey made his vulgar follow-up tweets. Fer Krist’s sake, ain’t you Muamba-lovers got anything better to do? Ignore the dicks, they’ll go away soon enough.
Of course, some kinds of trolling are worse than others. I’m thinking particularly about Facebook bullying. There’s a piece on Facebook bullying on www.bullying.co.uk. But we need to remember that bullying existed before the internet, and will no doubt continue to go on when human beings become extinct and dolphins on skateboards rule the earth. I experienced bullying at school long before the World Wide Web came into being, and I was advised “Ignore it.” Of course, I thought that was crap advice and used OTT violence instead. But now I look back, I can see that ignoring the bullies did help somewhat. So come on, FFS – stop throwing fuel on the fire. And grow up!