To Troll or Be Trolled

An important thing I learned in an article by The Conversation, Online trolling used to be funny, but now the term refers to something far more sinister is that the definition of trolling has evolved over time. What once was more light-hearted and portrayed in a joking way has turned into hate and negativity being spread throughout social media platforms. “Trolling often started with a message that was intentionally incorrect, but not overly controversial.” (The Conversation, March, 2019) This was very helpful to read in that before reading this, I may have not fully understood what trolling meant. It’s new information to me in regard to the term of “trolling” adapting over the years, turning more into a “catch-all” term for cyberbullying, cyberhate, and aggression that might be more pertinent in some people’s lives due to the advancements in technology and social media.

An interesting insight I learned about was that “things will stay bad because to troll is human”. (Rainie, Anderson & Albright, 2017) One of the themes from a reading from Pew Research Center, The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online makes a claim that trolling has been around forever and that more people are willing to complain online than in person due to our voices having a higher perceived value online, than it might’ve had in the past. I think this makes sense, and that more people are more willing to vocalize their opinion online. Jerry Michalski says, “and we’re not uniformly wise about how to conduct dependable online conversations, never mind debates on difficult subjects”. It looks as if it will be hard to change or get rid of the presence of trolling online. I think it’s important to think before you type, and ask yourself, “is this even worth my time? What am I getting out of this? How will I make the other person feel? Who is getting ahead of me while I spend my time doing this?” I believe that analyzing the situation and asking yourself a few questions will help reduce the amount of trolling that happens online.

In regard to if I’ve ever experienced trolling or hostile communication, yes! As a matter of fact, I’ve never experienced it as much as I have in the last two weeks due to the few new PlayStation 5’s and Xbox’s that are sitting in my apartment to resell. I preordered one of each back in September when everyone else had the opportunity. After receiving them and seeing the third-party resale price, I decided I can wait to open and re-buy come the new year. Some people don’t want to wait though. I’ve been in the situation where instant gratification trumps logic as well. A simple Facebook Marketplace post can turn into a riot within minutes of angry gamers not wanting to pay markup to secure their next-gen console. I, and many others receive threatening messages, threats of reporting, and even people that will “flake” on you when going to meetup. Personally, I never reply. Many people do to contribute to the conflict though, but I feel it’s best to not add fuel to the fire. I understand where they’re coming from with not wanting to pay third-party resale value for a video game console, so I won’t be mean, and I hope they know where I’m coming from with taking the time to do the research to know release dates, for example. Simply, just ignore or delete!

Instagram has started to take a larger stance on combating against trolling, hostile communication, and misinformation on their platform in a move to help maintain the user’s safety and let them express what they want. Many of us have seen the trolls and spammers that pop up in our DM’s or comments under a post. Often times, we may just ignore them, but it also can get annoying and can have negative consequences such as people trying to get a rise out of you are trying to obtain personal or financial information. “This week, Instagram is rolling out a new option called ‘Restrict’, which will enable users to limit the exposure of certain users when they comment of their post.” (Social Media Today, Hutchinson, 2019) I found this information on Google, it’s common information that can be seen by scrolling through your Instagram feed. Sometimes, we will be unable to comment on a post: the person who posted has changed their settings to disable commenting, maybe to keep free of controversy or spammers. Another instance I’ve seen is the fact-checking feature for photos and posts that Instagram has brought to its users. This helps maintain the transparency and honesty throughout the platform and limiting the amount of false information being spread.

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