Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Internet Trolls

Recently I've noticed trolling on Twitter and various Facebook pages to be getting worse, in my opinion. People are beginning to insult people who have recently died, people of a certain gender, race, religion, class, culture, anything. People who are successful are shot down through jealousy and people who aren't are made to feel even worse through self-centredness. 

It's all just so wrong.

Compassion and empathy seem to be slowly fading. I love Reddit and there's a subreddit supposedly for women to vent/talk freely, but the top comments are increasingly from angry, misogynistic males who try and promote anti-women messages, in a female forum. Some trolling is so stupid it doesn't even make sense. But if there's an audience for it, and some form of recognition, then it will continue to happen. 

To link this a bit to feminism, I recently listened to a podcast called “#545: This American Life” and it said women are statistically more likely to be trolled on the internet, or stalked on it. Does this mean that the internet is seen to be “male territory”? It’s a complicated question because it would seem true. Gaming, online or otherwise, can be seen as male territory with females seen as invasive, alien and largely in the minority with stereotypes regarding female gamers being terrible outdated and wrong. If this stereotype has any kind of basis it can only be from there being such a stigma attached to gaming for women that they either didn’t play, or played genderless as I know a lot of girls/women do. End of random tangent.

Anyway, back to "This American Life", a woman named Wendy West featured to tell her story about being trolled on Twitter. A guy took the time to research all about her life, and found out her father had recently died. He made a fake Twitter account as her dead dad and wrote some really awful things about West. It caused Wendy a lot of emotional pain to see something that awful, and eventually ended up in a phone call with him that starts off awkward and ends up with closure for them both. He admitted he did it because she was a strong, opinionated woman and that threatened him as a man because he felt powerless and wanted her to feel his pain too.

I have a feeling that’s where a lot of trolls are coming from. They aren’t happy with something to do with themselves and take it out on other people who seem to be getting what they wish they had. Whether that’s public attention, success of any kind, popularity, it tends to be through jealousy that hatred really springs to life. It’s hard to be happy for people if you feel your beneath them on some level.

I get it, and I have a feeling it’s something to do with social media. When every day we are bombarded with statuses, tweets, photos, etc. it’s easy to become desensitised to good news. (There are people who post about the bad in their lives, but to generalise, it’s usually for attention, especially when it’s something normally extremely private like a break up or a bad day at work. Stuff you’d normally just share with your best friend or partner.) When someone posts about their promotion, pregnancy, engagement, amazing holiday, happy family get together, it’s easy to get jealous and wish that for yourself. That’s normal. What’s not helpful is when that jealousy develops into hate, of the person or yourself, and a troll feels the need to post it online.

So, like old school bullies back when there wasn't online harassment, we all understand that trolls have deep emotional/psychological/self-esteem issues that they try and push onto someone else happier than them. Social media isn't the reason FOR the bullying, but it's a platform to have it heard. People who have something mean to say are going to find a way to say it, but the anonymity of the internet is perfect for their purposes. It’s sad that not everyone can be as content with their lives as everyone else. But everyone has a choice. We have all experienced jealousy or resentment but how many people have gone on to post online about that? What used to be a private thing has been made publically acceptable because people nowadays are able to hide behind a keyboard. Trolls choose to post things online and that’s something to be pitied on one hand but also it angers me. How bad must your own life be to take the time of day to spout hate to those undeserving of it? Instead of wasting energy trying to bring someone else down to your level, why not direct your energies bettering yourself?

In 2012 some of you might remember the case of Amanda Todd who took her own life because of trolls and it send shockwaves around the internet, especially when the hate campaign against Amanda Todd continued well after her death, however some people seemed to realise what they said online actually effected the victim in real life. Her Youtube video detailing the abuse she'd received such as being beaten up by a girl, used for sex by a boy, moving school several times and having intimate pictures shared online and used as a tool of blackmail. In 2014 a Dutch suspect was named, and paedophilia was yet another thing Amanda, unknowingly, had to endure. Such a sad and avoidable story.