[Repost] Don’t Feed the Trolls, and Other Hideous Lies

As the internet population grows and the influence of the internet over people grows as a result, the internet becomes an increasingly accessible tool to spread one’s views and attitudes. Trolls in recent years have received increasing coverage as their numbers grew and their tactics more malicious. Discussions on how to combat them have popped up, out of which, the phrase “Don’t feed the trolls” came from.  But, how does this strategy actually work out and how can these social parasites be cut from their host?

A Twitter follower reminded me of a line in the famous parable from Bion of Borysthenes: “Boys throw stones at frogs in fun, but the frogs do not die in fun, but in earnest.” Defenders of trolling insist it’s all just a joke, but if trolling is inherently designed to get a rise out of someone, then that’s what it really is. In many cases, it is designed to look and feel indistinguishable from a genuine attack. Whether you believe what you are saying or not is often immaterial because the impact is the same — and you are responsible for it, regardless of how funny you think it is. It is a lesson kids learn time and time again on the playground, and yet, it is ridiculously difficult for people to accept the same basic notion in online culture, no matter their age. Why is that so? Because those are the social norms that develop when you create a culture where everything is supposed to be a joke.

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