Are you a troll? Do you spew crazy shit on the internet just to get a reaction? Whether it’s to offend, impress or stack up those retweets, do you post stuff you don’t really believe just for attention? On the flipside, have you been a victim of one of these creatures? Despite your home training, fear of God and self-control, have you fallen into the trap of arguing with a troll online? Give me a hug. Pele. Think of this article as my support group for you.
For clarity, let’s define trolling. As I suggested above in my little invitation to introspection, a troll is someone who posts incendiary comments online to elicit a reaction. The more reactions they get, the more successful they feel they have been. Trolls usually seek to both offend and impress- as the offence they pose to certain groups is hilarious and impressive to their fellow cretins. Trolls are the scum of the earth.
I say this because trolling- as sad as the entire practice is- exists along a spectrum. There are harmless trolls shamelessly searching for retweets with some backward comment about a woman’s place being in the kitchen when their own mothers have been outsourcing that duty to Risikat since 1992. On the more damaging end of the spectrum, there are trolls who purposely target vulnerable people in a particularly aggressive manner just to achieve some warped sense of fun.
Examples covered in the UK media in recent years include the vandalisation of memorial Facebook pages dedicated to the recently deceased and relentless attacks by obsessed fans on everyday individuals who simply didn’t like that celebrity for some reason. In a recent interview, Nicki Minaj’s ex Safaree Samuels briefly referenced the barrage of abuse he has received from “Barbz”- Nicki’s fans- in the wake of their split. Some people really just have too much time on their hands.
The problem is that this joblessness isn’t always harmless. Many people seem to have itchy fingers nowadays and their words can have far-reaching consequences. Reports of suicide among teens as a result of cyber-bullying are a concrete example of this. I remember someone tweeting at blogger Sugabelly to kill herself simply because she found her tweets and blog annoying. At the time, she was riding the “I Hate Sugabelly” bandwagon that resulted from Linda Ikeji posting about the blogger’s strong opinions on Nigerian men.
Whether or not you agree with someone, encouraging them to commit suicide is simply reckless and just plain wicked. Even if the person didn’t mean anything by it and Sugabelly herself didn’t care, we just don’t know what others are dealing with. What if that tweet was sent to someone already struggling with depression and dark thoughts? Sometimes, all it takes are the wrong words at the wrong time to push someone over the edge- as has been seen in these horrific teenage suicide cases which make the news.
Not all trolling is life-threatening. Yet, even the mere irritants seem to only aim at populating the Internet with stupidity, regardless of possible consequences. I remember some tweets making light of domestic violence in the aftermath of the release of the video showing Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancé (now wife) Janay. A slick comment about slapping errant woman can further your campaign for retweets. However, it might be wise to consider that you don’t know who is going through such difficult situations and suggesting that victims deserve the violence inflicted on them through your poor attempt at humour could be doing far more damage than you think. But whatever. You’re hilarious. And you have 475 favourites. In the grand scheme of things, that’s really all that matters, right?
What about the rest of us? We try not to fall victim to the trolls but it can really be a struggle. The proliferation of WiFi has really empowered many to share opinions that might suggest single-digit IQs. A tweet lamenting the horrendous security situation in North-Eastern Nigeria could cause you to be branded a Buharist conspirator, for example. Cue retweets and memes.
I honestly think it’s best to walk away from such blatant goading. Even when some people seem to be begging and screaming for insults, just hold on to that still, small voice and walk away. The Chibok girls’ disappearance is an anti-GEJ conspiracy? Sure. Women all want to chop men’s money and must be ready to cook at the drop of a hat? No problem. All Nigerian men have come to steal, kill and destroy? Cool story.
Don’t get me wrong. I feel that when someone is putting out incorrect, malicious and potentially harmful information, they should be countered. Yet, one response does not an argument make. Once you start feeling that sticky troll quick sand pulling you in, step away. If they start to make the attack personal and discussion becomes harassment, hit the report button. Live and let live. Let’s not feed the trolls. To paraphrase the popular saying, fighting with a pig will get you both dirty- the only difference is that the pig likes it.
Over to you. Have you been a victim of a troll- either from personal attacks or being sucked into a frustrating argument? Should these trolls even have the ability to affect our moods so much, as seen in the more dangerous cases were cyber-bullying results in severe consequences? On a wider note, have you ever been dragged into a Twitter/ Facebook fight? Especially when personally attacked on social media, how do refrain from feeding the trolls? You know the drill. Comment. Comment. Comment.
PS: There’s a lot going on in Funmiland. I’m trying to juggle a few things while taking the plunge finally and going for a journalism job. You guys like my posts abi? Shouldn’t I work for a magazine? I knew you would agree. Help me get the editor’s attention by tweeting at @steve_dineen to #GetThisGirlAJob. The guy gets tons of CVs across his desk so it would be great if you guys could help me stand out OR ELSE… I will troll you! You have been warned!