May 1, 2019
People who bully have always been a great concern to me. And now we live in a digital age where people hide behind their devices, use fake profile names and get a psychotic thrill out bullying people. Society has come to accept these internet bullies or Trolls, and simply shake their heads and say, “just ignore them.” But as we read story after story of people getting so harassed and so upset by these Psychopaths THAT THEY TAKE THEIR OWN LIVES! Literally, 1000’s of people, most under the age of 25, take their own lives due to the psychological effects of cyberbullying or Trolling. There really isn’t much difference in those two terms except a cyberbully generally knows their victim and a troll will simply pick on anyone at any time whether they know them or not. Take 14 yr. old Hannah Smith, for instance, she joined a website called Ask.Fm, which allows people to post questions and have them answered anonymously. She had eczema and wanted advice about it and to talk about her recent depression. However, she didn’t find support. When her father checked one message that described Hannah’s habitual self-harming, she found that the anonymous users who had responded to the question were insulting her — telling her to “drink bleach,” “go get cancer,” and “die,” And die she did, she hung herself. All because NO ONE stopped the Trolls that were pushing her over the edge.
According to Psychology Today, “Psychological studies show trolls tend to be male, show higher levels of psychopathy traits — low levels of empathy, guilt and responsibility for their actions — and higher levels of sadism traits, the enjoyment of causing others physical and psychological pain.” But the interesting thing about these people is that they seem perfectly normal in person, interacting in society. Many hold good jobs, own businesses, have lots of friends and only let their Mr. Hyde out online. And the majority cause this mayhem anonymously!
Now for the majority of people that have had experience with an Internet Troll, it gets out of hand rather quickly. Mine was extremely mild. Considering I am passionate about politics and all things that have an effect on our world and especially my community, I find myself in all sorts of online discussions and debates. I see Trolls all the time. However, back in the day, these people were called, “Flamers” and the majority of sites had very strict rules in their user agreements that any type of “FLAMING” would not be tolerated. I remember quite well being on a College University-sponsored parenting site about 20 years ago and we were discussing potty-training. Having potty-trained several kids the old-school way, before the age of 2, I felt I was very equipped to participate in this discussion/debate. At this point in history, people began taking a much more Liberal approach in potty-training, waiting until their children could speak full sentences and assumed they could train themselves and many mothers expressed their frustration of these “late bloomers.” I made a comment that set off a FIRESTORM and actually quickened so many responses that the University server was overloaded and shut down for a brief period. My comment? “People who wait until their child can order a Happy Meal at McDonald’s are simply practicing ‘lazy parenting’.” Now I was very careful to not call anyone a “lazy parent” and McDonald’s had not even come up in this discussion, so I was not pointing a finger at any one particular participant…but potty-training is a task that takes lots of time and energy. A FLAME WAR ensued and I had no idea I had even caused it as the Administrators deleted my account before I could even see the hundreds of responses. They did, however, email me to tell me what I had, inadvertently caused and they were going to use this situation to study “Flaming” and people’s reactions to ideas they do not agree with or like. They agreed that I was not an intentional flamer, but the conflagration began with my comment. I did have a friend on that site and she showed me where there were many who agreed with my statement, but the majority had completely lost their mind. Liberals! And I do have to say, that my seemingly pragmatic comment was met with seething and gnashing of teeth, spiced up with expletives explicitly directly towards me. So, in hindsight, being deleted from that forum was a blessing.
But when did Flaming become innocuous and lose its standing and standard of protocol in our internet culture? And, why was that term replaced by the word, TROLL? According to Ashley Feinberg article on this topic; “Of course, humans have always had this potential for the irrationally vindictive, but the advent of the internet finally allowed it to thrive. Because as soon as you stuck someone behind a computer, a dangerously insular shield of anonymity came down and, for those inclined, happily took over. In discussing the sort of negotiation tactics that precede a flame war, Norman Johnson, an Associate Professor at Bauer College at the University of Houston explains: The literature suggests that, compared to face-to-face, the increased incidence of flaming when using computer-mediated communication is due to reductions in the transfer of social cues, which decrease individuals’ concern for social evaluation and fear of social sanctions or reprisals. When social identity and ingroup status are salient, computer mediation can decrease flaming because individuals focus their attention on the social context (and associated norms) rather than themselves. The introduction of anonymity not only made users feel free from the repercussions that might otherwise give them pause, but it also dehumanized potential targets. In other words, the internet gave all our worst impulses just what they needed to thrive. Because if someone disagreed with you in the real, live social realm, you might feel frustrated, sure, but you’ll also see that person’s as another human with human emotions—not just a jumble of inflammatory words for you to destroy. You’ll take time to reflect because you’ll realize there are consequences to your actions. Whereas on the internet, a clean slate is a mere username change away. Some of the earliest flame wars went down on Usenet, which unbeknownst to these earlier warriors, was building a model for all the trolls to eventually come in its wake.” She goes on to identify these people in their infant internet form. “The earliest documented form of internet troll was something called a net.weenie, who did what s/he does ” just for the hell of it.” In early internet usenet forums, they were the people being assholes simply for the sheer joy of being an asshole.” Not much has changed, except these Trolls have propagated as more and more people jumped on the Netstream. And, in our current tolerance of extremely bad behavior, and the Liberal Left believing that they have carte blanche to say whatever they want to whomever they want. There really are many theories as to why and whom first used the term, “Troll” to describe a total internet ass but nonetheless, it seems to exemplify the actions of that loathsome, little creature that lurks in the dark shadows, under the bridge while also portraying that cruel little monster, Rumplestiltskin as he steals one’s dignity and dances around the flame he caused, holding your precious baby…confident you will NEVER guess his REAL name. This is what gives Trolls, their perceived power over people; anonymity! That is their Achilles heel and by speaking their REAL NAME OUT LOUD, poof, just like that, they drop the baby and disappear…only for a short time, until they find another alias that suits them.
The reason I felt compelled to write about his topic is several-fold. First, I had an up-close and personal, confrontation with a Troll on a friend’s page as well as on a Facebook buying/selling page, with the SAME TROLL. The first interaction wasn’t really anything to get my panties in a wad, I just figured that my facebook friend had a serious Jerk as a friend. I think we all have at least one or two of them as our own facebook friends; the ones that you must be at the ready to delete their unnecessary, rude comment. But then, this same person responded to a group post I had made in one of our local buy & sell facebook pages. He knew that he had gotten a rise out of me the first time and was ready to start round two. His comment was quite snarky and completely inappropriate. I quickly deleted my entire listing because I didn’t want 65 thousand people seeing what this jerk posted on my personal item I was trying to sell. I had witnessed, over the years many Trolls on various different websites and had even done quite a bit of research into the emotional trauma they purposefully cause people to the extremely sad point of pushing some people over the edge that they take their own lives. The more I thought about what this person did, the more I thought about all the emotionally weak, gentle, fragile people that Cyber Bullies like this Troll effect and that started to get to me, in a really big way! I decided to see if we had any mutual friends and indeed we did. What happened next is what has really disturbed me. I contacted these people, my facebook friends, people that I knew in REAL life (except for one) and sent them messages to see what I could find out about this person. Their reactions were all very much the same and very unsettling. First all claiming that they didn’t know this person, and then after some prodding from me, all three confessed that he was a “typical Troll…but a nice guy.” But one person said, “He trolls people for fun. He is finding your reactions to his trolling to be hilarious. Just block him…He is an all right guy. I just don’t think he realizes where to draw the line between being funny and being rude. I can’t explain why he does these things. I really don’t care either. Some people just don’t understand how to live around normal people and act normally.” One friend was so defensive when I pushed him to tell me this guy’s real name that he couldn’t even continue the conversation. As a matter of fact, all three of the people I questioned about this guy’s real identity, would NOT give it up. Instead, they all defended him AND his nasty troll actions. This was extremely troubling to me. How could they defend someone who they knew for a fact goes out of his way to torment people online, especially using a FAKE NAME. I know exactly the type of person the Troller was, but what kind of people did it make his real-life friends? My friends? But then, there was this one other person, who had been our real-life friend for a couple of decades, much older than these other 3 and so I contacted this person and got the Troll’s real name.
My initial motivation was to seek this person out and have a face to face interaction as the majority of Trolls do not turn to Mr. Hyde until they are on a device. I felt I would be safe. I wanted to let him see that I was a woman, a mom, a wife, a concerned citizen, most likely concerned with some of the same issues he was concerned with. I wanted him to put a REAL flesh and blood FACE to a name, to perhaps remap his brain and maybe have him think twice before Trolling another innocent person…instill personal empathy and compassion for his fellow community members. In general, a Troll is harmless in person. So this was my mission. To meet the TROLL! But first I had to make 100% certain that I had the correct person, so the “good friend” gave me the name of his business and I made a benign, general comment on his Facebook business page and then sent a private message calling him by his Fake, Troll Name, saying a simple, “HI”, hoping for a reply and something nasty in return to indicate that he was the Troll. Oh, and for his well thought out reply to make sense, you would have to know that he used the Alias, “Human” as his last name. When I received this response I knew right away–BINGO! I HAVE FOUND THE TROLL
You see, I didn’t send him any emails and there was no, “harassment” but like the “typical troll” he was very quick on his feet and resorted to using Troll tactics as he knew exactly who I was! Not only had he trolled me on a friend’s page, he found my “reactions to his trolling to be hilarious.” Any “normal” person would have responded that I must have the wrong person as there is no one by that name at this company but would have most likely tried to sell me something anyway. I knew I had found the Troll. I responded, using his Fake name again, and that he had actually been the one to make contact with me, but if I had the wrong person (which I knew I didn’t) I apologized for taking up his time. So, now I know and perhaps sometime in the future, we will have a chance meeting…and if I know anything about God’s timing and perfect order, there will be a learning lesson in all of this. Furthermore, I did have the opportunity to experience and learn, first-hand the corrupt human condition, where people will turn a blind eye to another’s suffering to the extent of not wanting to chastise or to correct bad behavior in their “friends.” I do believe, in all of this, that was what bothered me the most. We will always have jerks and evil people in this world, but if we had more individuals willing to stand up to these BULLIES, and call them out, even if they are your friend, this would become less and less of a problem and we would see fewer young people causing themselves harm and even death if these Cyber Bullies were called out and NOT tolerated!
Daniella Cross is the guardian of 4Earth and featured writer
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