Ok admittedly, I’m a pretty late adopter of social media as a communication tool. I’ve only recently started blogging and following other blogs, I signed up to twitter only a few months ago and heck, I really only signed up to facebook because I caved to peer pressure.
But I’m now realising how powerful social media tools can be in the world of communication. However, it seems as with all modes of communication, some people are just going to use it for nefarious purposes.
Trolls, no longer just mythical monsters
So being a social media noob, it’s probably not all that surprising that I didn’t know much about “trolling,” but I was enlightened after an episode of Insight a couple of weeks ago.
Trolling is “the act of posting inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community, such as forums, chat rooms, or blogs, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”
Due to the nature of online communication, trolls can post these comments anonymously (or under a pseudonym), allowing them to (by and large) escape formal persecution.
In its mildest form (e.g. just posting off-topic comments), trolling just seems like a waste of time and in its most vicious form (e.g. posting offensive comments on a tribute site for a lost loved one), it seems extremely cruel and unwarranted. But maybe that’s just the way I’m wired. Literally.
Better than sex?
One of the trolls that was interviewed on this particular episode of Insight said that trolling is how she gets her kicks. Aside from the moral and ethical boundaries that I personally believe this behaviour crosses, this idea is hard for my brain to fathom; that some trolls just do what they do for fun.
When our bodies receive an external “pleasurable” stimulus (e.g. when eating delicious food), a chemical called dopamine is released into the reward or pleasure centre of our brain (which is explained in a bit more detail here).
This induces a sense of pleasure that motivates us to repeat this behaviour (a sensation which forms the core of addictions).
So is my distaste of trolling like my aversion to say… rockmelon? And conversely, is a love of trolling like my love of eating good chocolate?
Not just bullies
While conventional (“school-yard”) bullying often stems from a desire to be socially accepted by certain peer groups (and perhaps even display dominance over them), it appears that most trolls act individually and completely anonymously (although there isn’t a whole lot of research in this area yet).
Thus, I find it hard to dismiss this behaviour as an act of “trying to fit in with the cool kids.” So it would seem that trolls really do just want to stir the pot.
I’d love to hear from those that participate in trolling just for the fun of it – Why do you do it? And does it give you the same sensation as when you’re eating your favourite food? Or when you’re flirting with someone you’re attracted to? I’m willing to be educated in this matter.