We’re all familiar with the common internet troll. A venomous, habitually cruel creature determined to eradicate fun times from the comfort of its keyboard. We’ve all seen its work, some of us may have even participated in the act (for shame!), but what causes it?
It’s certainly a curious behaviour. A strange fact of an anonymous internet lifestyle.
Science and sociology have, as science and sociology tend to, sought to explain the phenomenon ever since it popped up uninvited on their scientific (aka better than yours) computer monitors. Please refrain from combining science and sociology as “scientology” in your minds, I’ve been doing that throughout the writing of this article.
But scientology (do as I say, not as I do) delivered! John Suler explored the trolling phenomenon back in 2004 (a whole year before YouTube popped up), and came up with six key factors to online douchebaggery:
- Dissociative anonymity (“my actions can’t be attributed to my person”)
- Invisibility (“nobody can tell what I look like, or judge my tone”)
- Asynchronicity (“my actions do not occur in real-time”)
- Solipsistic Introjection (“I can’t see these people, I have to guess at who they are and their intent”)
- Dissociative Imagination (“this is not the real world, these are not real people”)
- Minimised Authority (“there are no authority figures here, I can act freely”)
These aren’t mutually extant factors; you can pick and mix. So, you could argue that Twitter pretty much killed the idea of “asynchronicity” as a factor, because if you get pwned in 140 characters or less you get a damned text message about it. YouTube itself may deal a blow to the “solipsistic introjection” idea, as you can see those people.
Facebook and Google+ are steadily working to destroy online anonymity and invisibility; Facebook literally has your face on record (though not in a book, except through unofficial means) and not using your real name (or a name that looks enough like a real name… Dreddy Sal apparently doesn’t look enough like a real name for me to have a Google+ account) gets you a thunderous greeting from the fabled Ban Hammer.
Believe it or not, even with all the trolling, there was a huge sigh heard around the internet when Facebook comments were introduced, it was labelled the killer of online anonymity and the kind of privacy issue that only the Zuck could deviously create.
The NSA themselves are doing their best to demolish the idea of “minimised authority”, what with their whole “watching everything that everyone does ever” remit that they’re rolling with. That should be on their seal, really.
And now the trolls have a new enemy, with a face both familiar and frightful. The hero that the internet needs, and probably the one it deserves – a cat – has come to deliver the blow that social media platforms, government agencies, and search engines have been trying to land since time immemorial. This kitty came to stop the trolls.
This post is sponsored by V Energy Drinks