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Internet trolls take great pleasure in finding, teasing and
bullying people online just for laughs
A few decades ago (long before the internet) a close friend of mine
committed suicide because they were being bullied. I had no idea this
was going on.
More often than not, victims of bullying and violence are quiet and
reserved. People you'd never guess were secretly battling something
nasty, and often silently and alone.
Television news and popular media keep us up to date with stories of
traditional bullying starting to spill onto Facebook and social media
sites. Social media can be used to quickly assemble hate squads to
descend on people or places. And this is a worrying trend. But there
are many other more subtle types of online bullying that targets both
kids and parents.
In Norse mythology, a troll was a mythical beast that lived under
bridges and harassed passers-by. Internet trolls take great pleasure
in finding, teasing and bullying people online just for laughs –
people who may have different views from their own.
I am normally a tech geek who sticks to my part of the internet and I
very rarely participate in areas where bullying and or internet trolls
are known to hang out. Random online trolls are usually politically
motivated, aligned to one particular sporting team or tech brand, or
just take pleasure in knocking others down a peg or two.
I recently blogged about a new free game from Google called Ingress where you battle in your
neighbourhoods over known landmarks. Even CNet described it as
friendliest turf war on earth". But I've realised this is
far from the truth. I noticed a higher ranked player on my team
constantly harass the opposition, dominate them and use his higher
rank to outplay the new players. I created a new account and swapped
sides only to find that it was impossible to get a foothold as a new
lower ranked player.
My point? There are many online games that encourage teams to form
and battle opponents. But sometimes these games are full of bullies
and trolls. These are the games I stay away from.
I used to be a reader of a great tech site called fudzilla.com. But I've now left
the site because of the editorial bias and comments from readers
harassing fans of a technology brand. At first it was fun to read the
comments from the two tech fanboy groups at the bottom of each
article. But I quickly realized it's best not to feed the trolls by
participating. The same applies to most of the world news sites. Even
a brief check of the open comments section at the bottom of these news
pages reveal a shockingly high number of haters, racists and trolls.
Sometimes it's best not to even go "below the line".
Facebook is a huge area of concern where kids and people go to
validate their worth by joining groups, posting images and selfies.
Being shunned from groups or having comment made about your status
update or photos can be taken out of context and snowball into a
bigger, more serious problem.
So what's the solution? I can't imagine what it must be like to be a
kid these days - trying to fit in and deal with the regular stresses
at school, then to get home only to face more of it on social media.
What I do know is this; we actually don't need social media as much as
we're lead to believe. We don't need to measure up to other people's
expectations or ‘cool' status updates.
Tomorrow is the fifth National Day of
Action Against Bullying and Violence. If you're on the receiving
end of bullying or violence, know that you have rights. If you feel
unsafe, call the police. If you're on sites popular with trolls, maybe
look for alternative sites. And most importantly, don't feed the
trolls with comments of your own. This only ends up dragging you in deeper.
Check out the links below. Who knows? Maybe one day you'll be able to
prevent a desperate, bullied friend from committing suicide.