Bitchiz be trollin’!

20 Nov

It seems for every greener pasture the internet presents, there is a troll lurking somewhere beneath an electronic bridge.

I’ve been sitting here thinking about how to start writing this post without making reference to the fact that I myself have recently been savaged by a troll, but I can’t, so I’ll have to:

I, myself, have recently been savaged by a vicious troll.

A month ago I logged onto facebook to find that someone had created a fake facebook account in my name. What was unnerving about the account was that the person it represented was neither real nor completely fake: the account was in my real name (bar the addition of “Avant-Garde” as a middle name – good grief.) and displayed my  actual cellphone number and “religious views” (albeit expressed in nauseating clichés I would never have used). Furthermore, the wall was littered with links and quotes from my blog and twitter accounts, and even one of my Youtube videos.

The quotes, however, were juxtaposed amongst a collection of acidic statuses I didn’t write, and would never have written – which portrayed me as vindictive and narcissistic, to say the least. Within this context, my blog and twitter quotes gave off an air of self-obsessed arrogance that hadn’t been there in their original posting.

I responded to the occurrence with a Youtube video which cleared things up quite well, and since then I’ve had a flock of facebook messages and people coming up to me on campus to tell me to keep my head up, and that whoever did this was a tool (which was an amazing experience in itself: to receive so much love and support from people who, mostly, hadn’t even spoken to me before) but the whole incident has really gotten me thinking about the way people act towards one another on the internet.

It’s easy to slate someone on the internet. You don’t have to look at them and see the hurt on their face when they hear you. You don’t have to identify yourself. You can make whatever comment you want without it casting a negative light on you, and without it being judged according to who said it. You don’t have to interact with the person enough to feel sorry for them or justify their actions according to their likeable demeanor (because, really, most people have likeable demeanors). You can pretty much fling mud at someone from behind a wall and walk past them the next day, without them knowing that it was you.

You can also pull statements right out of their intended contexts and twist them around so that they say whatever you want them to. You have as much time as you need to analyse what someone has said and find as many moronic semantic arguments as you need to make yourself look clever and win three likes on your next comment.

Essentially, you can fake things whichever way you want to on the internet, and provided you’re clever enough to remain anonymous and spell-check your comments, nobody will judge them according to how well you practice what you preach.

In this light, it’s bizarre that we take anything we find on the internet seriously… but we do. In the few days before I knew about the aforementioned fake facebook account, I was approached by someone on my way to the English Department:

“Hey, you’re Michelle Avenant!”
“Yeah…”
“How are you?”
“Um… I’m great? I’m really sorry, have we met?”
“You added me on facebook!”
“Uhhh…”

I’d never seen or spoken to this person in my life, but now we were friends because fake-me had added him on facebook.

The fake account, incidentally, was reported and deleted within a few hours, but the troll(s) didn’t stop at Little Billy-Goat Gruff. A few days later, a ream of comments appeared on my Youtube account. Being the outspoken person I am, I responded, (stupidly) calling them out for being a troll, and to a meagre avail: all I was met by was contextual and semantic manipulation and baseless insults, and I started glancing wistfully in the direction of comment moderation.

Freedom of Speech or Social Destruction? 

I feel extremely ambivalent about comment moderation. In a sense, I see it as a restriction of ones’s Right to Freedom of Speech: it seems a bit devious to just keep the “wow, you’re so great!” comments and delete the ones you don’t like.  After all, “comments” sections play an important role in the dialogical nature of modern media. To chop and change pieces of a conversation, or only to allow certain opinions to be expressed, seems fundamentally untruthful to me.

Furthermore, as revolting as they are, trolls are a prominent part of internet culture. I can imagine myself sitting at a dinner table with my children years from now, dreamily sighing: “Yup. It wasn’t a 2011 Youtube video unless it had a couple of trolls bumbling about in the ‘comments’ section…”

The Media scholar in me, though, argues that as the internet is taking over our lives in bigger and bigger steps, we need to start thinking more productively about the ways in which we’re using it: this troll’s criticisms were personal and obscenely-phrased, and if they’d used that style of argument in a first-year essay, their tutor would’ve shuffled their feet awkwardly on handing it back to them and offered them a job at their second cousin’s McDonald’s branch in P.E.

Is it Utopian of me to expect criticism to be balanced and legitimately-presented?

For the moment, I’m peering under the bridge with an Essay Evaluation rubric in one hand and a copy of the South African Bill of Rights in the other, and wondering what my high school L.O. teacher would have to say for herself if I pulled a Big Billy Goat Gruff and gave the troll the boot.

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One Response to “Bitchiz be trollin’!”

  1. greywolfreviews 20 November 2011 at 1:08 PM #

    It’s true. Trolls are a massive pain in the nether regions but unfortunately are a big part of the internet now. Personally, I would suggest purposefully ignore a selected troll completely and watch to see what happens. Could be fun to see them rage at the lack of attention!

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