Trolling & Social Media Conflict
Trolling has existed since the beginning of internet and was noticed by the society in the early 1996. In Today’s world slang “Troll” is a person who creates conflict over the Internet by starting arguments or by posting offensive comments on one’s profile. A boost given to trolling was in 2008, from both political and social perspective when the so called “Troll Army” started to post content about the Russian government. Some journalists believe that a unified political trolling infrastructure was created on purpose with a sequence of internet laws being approved not just for political purposes but to also influence brand reputation and its society.
There are 4.28 billion internet users around the globe out of which 3.48 billion users are active on social media platforms. Trolling happens on each platform in a different perspective depending on the type of community it attracts. For instance, Facebook will have higher number of conflicts due to the services provided for its users such as videos, status-threads or images. In comparison to Instagram, another purchase by the tech giant Facebook, this platform provides content creators to upload their material online which allows the trolls to criticise one’s content.
If you’re an active social media user, you must have encountered some sort of harassment or know someone else posting stirring comments out there. For instance, YouTube is pulsating example of how people comment “This video is trash” or “Why would someone on Earth listen to your song”. Comments like these leads individuals into serious depression and may lead to suicidal thoughts. The argument that comes to rise is if government should formulate social media code of practice for personal use, its impacts and my personal experience.
Trolling is basically known as the act of enticing others into fruitless and inefficient arguments. The exodus of trolling originated from a platform called “Usenet” which was a worldwide distributed discussion system established in the 80’s. Usenet reported that a successful troll is the one where users interact deliberately in multiple groups and having no fruitful conclusion to their argument. Trolls are also a type of hacker as they are a fragment of the rising internet community with a fluid of morality and a disdain mostly for everyone who is online. A poll directed for 1000 Americans showed that around 25% of the respondents were a victim of trolling which later led to social media conflicts, few of them are afraid to leave their homes or afraid for their lives.
There are three types of trolls who stroll around the internet, “The Thinker” who spend time in fabricating stories and provides justifications to the community based on an individual user, “The Zombie Army” who have sufficient amount of time behind the screens and are the top keyboard warriors spreading the content provided by the thinkers. Lastly, “Zealot” goes beyond limits in trolling as they will create content, disturb your close relationships just to make you respond. The question that comes to mind is, why would one spend their time to create content in order to have conflict utilising social media as their medium?
According to Benyamin (2018), most of the trolls are teenagers or adults sculptured in physiques of junior high believing that trolls are funny. An example to support his argument was the loving couple “Ryan Reynold and Blake Lively” who took their negative trolls in a hilarious manner attracting positive reactions on social media disrupting all the conflicts that would rise. On the other hand, there is a thin line between trolling and cyberbullying as it takes few threads to make the conversation personal or threatening. An example would be Hollywood leading star “Leslie Jones” who was bombarded by trolls on her Twitter account undoubtedly agonised her from such content. Surely, celebrities are not the only to suffer from such social media conflicts.
The magnitude of trolling, via social media is overwhelming, an example would be the Assam event in India (ethnic issues between the Muslims and Hindus) since the early 80’s. As the Muslim population is on rise in India, conflicts started from streets and now expanded into the social media world. In late 2012, Hindu members attacked the Muslims which resulted in migration of 300,000 refugees, guarded camps and casualties. After this riot took place, posts such as texts, videos or photographs started circulating the social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook creating a catastrophic environment in other urban areas that a similar incident is about to happen. Although such content spread online created a dread situation for the citizens and had major impact on individual’s wellbeing.
The impact of social media platforms in our lives can sometimes lead to phycological problems by feeding you inappropriate content and allowing you to criticise and be more materialistic day by day eventually ending up in depression or anxiety. According to Pelt (2017), a phenomenon known as “Facebook Depression” was reported by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), informing the problems that come along with excessive usage of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and other platforms such as YouTube or virtual gaming world like Second Life. AAP mentioned that young users with low self-esteem are impacted the most as the number of likes or comments on their status, posts matter to them and makes them feel unpopular if the desired number is not achieved. On the other hand, Instagram has confirmed to ban its like counts for users in the United States and then expand globally even though the millennials are not happy about it (Griffin, 2019).
From my own involvement, utilising social media platforms especially Facebook allowed me to pass judgement as I fed myself with negative content daily. Content such as “white guy punches pregnant hijabi women”, “black guy getting beaten by NY cops” or other memes related to politics which is quite intriguing made me scroll the feed through out the day until I realised and made a major shift to LinkedIn where sharing the content has a set of ground rules and user has to maintain that professional level.
To conclude, government should take the necessary steps required to prevent an increase in trolling which might lead to social media conflicts. United Kingdom government took the initiative to run school programs such as “ChildNet” that visits schools and educates the youth on how to benefit from the social media platforms and utilise them just for communication purposes only. From my personal point of view, programs should be designed on how to behave and utilise the social media platforms in a professional manner rather being a keyboard warrior. For instance, if platforms such as LinkedIn can build such community, I believe other platforms can improve their policy levels to allow a decrement in social media conflicts and enhance positive engagement.
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Benyamin, C. (2019). Internet Trolls: Social Artists or Sadists? [online] theperspective.com/. Available at: https://www.theperspective.com/debates/businessandtechnology/internet-trolls-social-artists-or-sadists/
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Griffin, A. (2019). Instagram to try banning likes everywhere. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/instagram-likes-ban-test-update-app-features-a9203256.html
Pelt, J. (2017). Is ‘Facebook Depression’ For Real? [online] Socialworktoday.com. Available at: https://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/exc_080811.shtml
Rainie, L. (2017). The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online. [online] Pew Research Centre: Internet, Science & Tech. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/03/29/the-future-of-free-speech-trolls-anonymity-and-fake-news-online/