Tuesday, 23 April 2013

To the trolls

“The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits.” ~Albert Einstein

Much as I would like to say I hate internet trolls, I feel sorry for them.  I really do.  I'm not suggesting for a moment that they are not a nuisance, but that is also all they will ever be - a minor irritation.  Of more concern is their apparent lack of self-awareness.  If you dare to point out that they are a troll, you will find that they appear to take a great deal of offence at what they see as an unwarranted slur on their character.  The truth is that awareness of what they are wounds them deeply, as it would be too awful to acknowledge the depths to which they have sunk.  The likelihood is that they will already have said far worse things to many people, so let's try to understand where they are coming from.

Internet trolls tend to be teenage boys, or anyone who has the mindset of a teenage boy.  Worse, they are often so isolated and lonely that an argument on an online forum, or comment stream is, to them, the only meaningful social interaction they have during their day.  Yes, they probably have family, but we must question whether these are the kind of people who would fit well into a family unit, let alone be loved and wanted by their families.  Imagine how empty your life would have to be before you would consider spending your days sitting by your computer, endlessly searching the forums and comments for a chance to say something deliberately contentious or, more often, to insult someone by calling them an idiot or some deeply offensive euphemism for male homosexuality.

The internet, you see, is something of a safe haven.  Safe from the playground bullies, wilfully ignoring all reasonable admonishment, they feel able to express views that, often, they don't actually hold.  Strange though it may seem, going against their core beliefs is a small price to pay for gaining some reply from an actual living person.  Sadly, it is possible that they have no core beliefs, and believe in nothing, so they have to pretend.  Remember, most of these people are male, and spend a great deal of their time visiting pornographic web sites, sitting by their computers with a box of tissues at the ready: they can only dream about getting physically intimate with a real woman, or man, or farmyard animal.  The assumed persona of internet troll gives these individuals a temporary release from their own existence, from the depressing reality of who they truly are.

Some have replied to the comments of the trolls.  Much as I think it's wrong, I also understand it.  They may feel ashamed to be insulted by someone of such inferior intelligence, and may be all too aware that the trolls feel each "win" validates their existence.  It must be kept in mind, however, that these poor unfortunates are only acting out what they only wish they could do in reality.  We all know that doing it within the relatively safe confines of the internet is cowardly beyond contempt, but we must refrain from reacting to them.  The worst thing we can do is allow them to feel like the righteous crusaders of their fantasies, keeping the internet free of all intelligent discourse and opinion, bringing it down to the level of pre-school jibes and counter jibes, with which they are more comfortable.  Just as it is often impossible to reason with pre-school children, it is also impossible to reason with internet trolls.  Their sense of reason and logic has become warped by the internet being their only source of social interaction.

Wider society has been unfair to the internet troll.  Their meaningless existence, devoid of friendship, love or respect, has embittered them.  The rest of the world becomes, in their tiny minds, the enemy.  It is all too easy for them to blame their situation on those with more fulfilling lives.  Maybe if we stop giving them what they want on the forums and comment streams, they will leave their computers and find that there is another world outside of their limited experience.

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