What is an Internet Troll?
You may have seen a number of news stories from around the world highlighting the damage caused by so-called “trolls” on the Internet, but what are trolls?
Internet trolls are users who post abusive or shocking content in an attempt to spark arguments and disharmony among the online community, called “trolling”. Trolls take advantage of the fact that they can remain anonymous online by posting controversial, confrontational or provocative messages or images in order to get an emotional reaction (usually anger) out of other users. They frequent large communities, like public forums, chatrooms, blogs and the likes of YouTube and Yahoo! Answers. Think of trolls like bullies trying to get a rise out of you.
There are different levels of trolling. It can range from light-hearted goading among friends all the way up to posting offensive messages to memorial pages and leading someone to suicide. One website that prides itself on troll culture is 4chan, an online imageboard where users post images to dedicated ‘boards’ and post comments to them. 4chan is often used as a place to plan troll attacks on other websites on a mass level. Take, for example, Mormon.org– a website where you can chat and ask questions to Mormon missionaries in real time. 4chan users often invade the site, asking stupid or misleading questions to provoke the missionaries, who often exit the chatroom.
Many people ponder why users decide to troll people. What’s the point of it? Well, there is no definitive answer. Some might enjoy causing others torment. Others may get a power trip out of getting reactions out of people. Some users with low self-esteem may take on anonymous alter-egos online to gain favour with other trolls. Whatever the reason, trolling isn’t something you can police or prevent. Unfortunately, trolling will always exist.
So what can you do if you find yourself dealing with a troll, considering you cannot stop them? The best thing you can do is completely ignore them. Trolls work for the sole purpose of getting you to react, just like a bully. By not reacting, they’ll get bored, lose interest and move on to the next unsuspecting victim. If you know of someone who repeatedly trolls a website, it might be a good idea to report them to the site’s administrator in an attempt to ban them from posting.