Friday, March 24, 2006

On Trolls

Internet Troll: One who posts rude or offensive messages on the Internet to disrupt discussion or to upset its participants. They delight in sowing discord on the Internet by starting arguments and upsetting people.

Recent conversations with a few bloggy friends led us to the conclusion that a lot of people in the bloggiverse who, perhaps due to naivete, newness to blogging, or simply because they're inherently bitter rude people have been leaving aggressive comments putting people on the defensive and many a little upset. The term for such people is trolls of whom there are various types.

Though trolls are as unique as falling snowflakes, common characteristics include: fake names, never ending comments, never backing down until you give up, refuse to follow social etiquette, immune to reason or respect. As this article says: Trolls see the Internet as convenient venues for their bizarre game. For some reason, they don't "get" that they are hurting real people. To them, other Internet users are not quite human but a kind of digital abstraction. They feel no sorrow whatsoever for the pain they inflict. Indeed, the greater the suffering they cause, the greater their 'achievement' At the moment, the relative anonymity of the net allows trolls to flourish. Trolls are utterly impervious to criticism (constructive or otherwise). You cannot negotiate with them; you cannot cause them to feel shame or compassion; you cannot reason with them. They cannot be made to feel remorse. For some reason, trolls do not feel they are bound by the rules of courtesy or social responsibility" (thanks for the link Tee)

Ofcourse having a blog means that some people will leave rude, vicious, hateful comments, and such people will often insist "if you can't take the heat leave the kitchen" or some other variant of freedom of speech argument. But this link said well: while we may have the right to say more or less we want, we do not have the right to say it wherever we want. You may feel strongly about the fact that your neighbour has not mowed his lawn for two months, but you do not have the right to berate him in his own living room. Similarly, if a webmaster tells a troll that he is not welcome, the troll has no "right" to remain. This is particularly true on the numerous free communications services offered on the net.

Though occassional disagreements are a part of life, and must be expected, rude and combative discourse is not acceptable in "real" life nor online. Each blog has an audience of people and most people read the blogs of those who interest, intrigue or touch them in some way. Shabana said it very well: If you go to someone’s living room and start knocking the china off the mantle and taking muddy shoes everywhere, you will get kicked out. If you start insulting me and my life and my choices, you will get kicked out without a moment’s notice. Likewise with this blog. This blog is not a space of free speech where you should be able to say whatever you want, no matter how outrageous. This is a space I maintain for connection, for uplifting of spirits, for positive expression, for sharing good things. There are many reasons to blog. It’s definitely not about subjecting myself to nastiness.

I will never understand how some people have such free time to read blogs of those they look down upon but this link explains why people troll: Regular net users know how delightful it is when somebody responds to something they have written. It is a meeting of the minds, which is an intellectual thrill, but it is also an acknowledgement of one's value — and that can be a very satisfying emotional reward.Trolls crave attention, and they care not whether it is positive or negative. They see the Internet as a mirror into which they can gaze in narcissistic rapture.

How to deal with a troll?
The experts on the sites I shared on trolls say: The only way to deal with trolls is to limit your reaction to reminding others not to respond to trolls. And finally Shabana said it very well in another post: "You will spend 10 minutes typing the comment and it will take me a second to hit the delete button. Hopefully, during the time you type, some other person in your life will be safe from your negative energies"

All of this is ofcourse my opinion, my views. This is my place to express them. You may disagree and its okay as long as it is done with respect and if its not under psuedonyms and aliases I will listen and respond. However, if I find your "opinion" offensive I will remove it and the judge of its "offensiveness" is me. Like Shabana said if you have the right to be hateful towards me, I have the right to click delete.

22 comments:

Huda said...

Amen.

wayfarer said...

"You will spend 10 minutes typing the comment and it will take me a second to hit the delete button. Hopefully, during the time you type, some other person in your life will be safe from your negative energies"

That's a really good point!

Mia said...

Preach on sister, preach on!

momyblogR said...

WOW! What a great, great post. I swear, everyone in the blogosphere should be reading your page. If for nothing else but to learn how to behave out here!

Trolls really should just stay under their bridges!

koonj said...

Cool!

The check is in the mail.

:) just kidding of course.

Southern Masala said...

Thanks for this post Aisha. The term troll is pretty appropriate, with double meaning. First, they fish along hoping for someone to take the bait (which I am stupid enough to do, considering my limited experience with trolls). Second they are like the trolls in fairy tales that can be pretty ugly and mean. If I were like Harry Potter, I could just take my wand and shove it up their nose :).

Mansoor said...

Growing up, it was hard to believe my parents had my interests in mind. I would often get upset when they critically examined my ideas and challenged them. Only as an adult did I realize the strength of character that was born out of these challenges.

In college, I had the privilege to meet someone who was brave enough and original enough to challenge every belief I held. Though I'd been through it before, it wasn't easy: I argued with her regularly. I believed I hated her for disrespecting me, except I had to concede that her intention was never to disrespect, but to challenge conventional thought. And her every challenge had merit, every challenge resulted in new thoughts. I came to love this about her, and I decided there could be no greater quality in my life's partner. The woman I'm referring to is my wife, Nadia, whom you've labeled a troll.

Nadia does not meet any of the definitions of a troll you put forth. She is not rude, and she is not disruptive. She does not "delight in sowing discord on the Internet". The first link you posted said "the characterising feature of trolling is the perception of intent to disrupt a community." I've read Nadia's comments on various blogs, and there is not a single instance when her intent was to disrupt.

When she first began to challenge my beliefs, I asked her, "How would you like it if I challenged your beliefs?". Needless to say, she welcomed it, and I saw that she would honestly change her opinion when presented with solid arguments. Her every belief was open to scrutiny, and she never became defensive, she never said, "Leave me alone, I'll believe what I believe."

If you still believe her behavior makes her a troll, then look for me under a bridge, where I'll be living with a troll, for the rest of my life.

mystic-soul said...

I hope I am not in 'troll' category in your dictionary.

Ali said...

It's good virtue to just ignore them... that irritates them even more.

BBCD said...

hmm i really appreciated you posting the troll link on my blog when i had that guy be so horrible to be last week. no matter how much it shouldnt personal insult on that level does upset you.. and it did upset me for a while, but like most other things i forgot about it soon enough cos i knew we was an ass.

happy blogging sis

opinionatedinjerzee said...

i have gotten a few unwelcomed comments on my blog.. i just deleted them and after a few times.. they just stopped.. if you talk back to them it just gives them more of a reason to keep coming back.. Silence is the best defense..

mezba said...

re: opinionatedinjerzee
true said.

I got a couple of wierdos from time to time. Prolly life-long losers now relegated to being virtual losers.

Aisha said...

Hey all thanks for your comments and personal perspectives. BBCD that person was just a dimwit with personal insecurities they vented to you. It was uncalled for and I'm sorry you were upset about it, Glad you are feeling better now though!

Mansoor I certainly did not name her here. If you guys are truly trying to help better humanity by using pseudoynms and challenging others to think and ponder their choices then perhaps the blogs of strangers and people who don't appreciate it is not the way to go? In person debates with friends and classmates and loves ones are quite a different thing from online debates. That's a waste of your time becuase its upsetting to others who dont know your motives. Furthermore, telling people that they'd rather let dogs in their house before they'd let them in, insulting their beliefs is not a way to go particularly because such things can be misinterpreted on the internet where the reader sees words and interprets them in their own way. When you have kids please challenge them and give them good character as you see fit but you guys arent the guardians of the internet world and the people who post in it. The same respect that should be done in our daily life is expected in our cyber one.

Tee said...

Aisha, I absolutly 100% support you and have your back.

Enyur said...

Couldn't have said it better!! Great post! And yeah, when we meet someone for the first time and realize that they're values or beliefs are not in line with ours, we either retract quietly or if we feel we really have to present our opinion, we do so in a respectful way. The same etiquette applies in the cyber world.

Mansoor said...

"Mansoor I certainly did not name her here."
That makes no difference to me if I know, and you know, it’s my wife you’re talking about.

"perhaps the blogs of strangers and people who don't appreciate it is not the way to go?"
Posting on a blog is not, as one of the links mistakenly claimed, the same as entering a person’s home. The Blogosphere is a public sphere, and when you post publicly in a public sphere, you are making a public speech. A better analogy is to say a blogger is like a person making a speech on a sidewalk. When a sidewalk evangelist calls out a controversial statement, I reserve the right to argue with him, whether or not he is a stranger, and whether or not he appreciates it.

Also, by commenting on a blog, I am not necessarily trying to sway the blogger. If the blogger makes a controversial statement, I often disagree to provide a balanced view for the blog’s readers.

"In person debates with friends and classmates and loves ones are quite a different thing from online debates. That's a waste of your time becuase its upsetting to others who dont know your motives."
As I said previously, I'm also interested in influencing the blog's readers. So, it is incorrect to say it is a waste of time because the blogger may not understand my motives (although I'm not sure what motives you're referring to--maybe the motive to express my opinion?).

"telling people that they'd rather let dogs in their house before they'd let them in, insulting their beliefs is not a way to go particularly because such things can be misinterpreted"
In fact, you're misinterpreting the quote yourself. This supposedly insulting statement that you removed from its context on someone else's blog was part of a conversation about whether or not Muslims can be touched by dogs. I don't think it's rude or insulting, and it's certainly not disruptive (the defining characteristic of a troll) to say that, if a Muslim visitor asked you to put your dog out, you would rather out the Muslim than out the dog. I'm sure there are a few dog-lovers who would agree that this is a personal preference, not an insult.

"you guys arent the guardians of the internet world and the people who post in it."
No, but we are citizens of the internet world and we do have the right to respond to public statements, whether or not those responses are welcome.

"The same respect that should be done in our daily life is expected in our cyber one."
Neither of us says things in the Blogosphere that we wouldn't say in person.

In my previous comment, I pointed out that Nadia has never been intentionally disruptive on a blog (the defining characteristic of a troll). In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I think it's wrong of you to label her a troll. She hasn't commented on your blog since you unceremoniously told her she wasn't welcome more than a month ago, so I don't know what made you decide to bring her up.

mystic-soul said...

Lets move on to new post, please.

Mansoor said...

I noticed you removed the part that refers to Nadia, but it would have been better if you explicitly stated that you were doing so. Otherwise, people who read the original may interpret it as surreptitiously changing your post. In any case, thank you for removing the references to my wife.

Minka said...

Trolls, we apparently have them her ein Iceland, but we sent them to the caves where they have to live without light for bad and rude bahaviour. very fitting title for sad people that have nothing else on their hands but to upset others. Little must the sun shine in their lives!

Hasan the Not-So-Great said...

If I am a troll, please forgive me.

Savy said...

I'm late to this post, because I haven't visited your blog before. However, this was a great post. I had a blog for over a year, and things got so bad with trolls (including some of them who were extended family of mine, who fully admit to being trolls - in the fulls sense of the word, vicious people whom I actually have nothing to do with.) I ended up shutting down my blog completely and deleting it.

I don't know if I would have done so, if all the trolls had been annonymous - but just the same, people don't understand what they are doing to other "real" people when they become hateful. There truly is a difference in expressing a contrasting opinion (which is welcomed) and attacking someone personally.

I recently restarted my blog (at a different addy, since my old one was hijacked by a porn site, which apparently tolls for discontinued high traffic addresses - word to the wise, if you ever delete your blog, never let the address be deleted too.) I did so with the knowledge that I made a couple mistakes with my first.

The first mistake was to put too much of myself into the blog personally. That created an opportunity for trolls to really attack me on a personal level - so even though I deleted their comments, they still stung because of their gathered ammunition. This time, I won't be making the same mistake. And the second thing is to not even let the slightest disrespectful post go through or respond to it.

I wish you the best of luck with your blog and situation!

Suroor said...

This is a perfect post, Aisha. Mystic sent me the link. Thank you for speaking up against them trolls

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