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Internet freedom & rise of the trolls

Aeshwarya Singh Mundel | Updated on: 22 March 2018, 12:11 IST

We're all very familiar with the phrase: With great power comes great responsibility. But not so much with the weight it carries. In this era, where smart phones have put the internet into the pockets of millions across the globe, the impact of the new expression: With great (internet) speed comes great (ir)responsibility is the need of the hour.

Though internet freedom has greatly improved our lives with everything just a click away, it has also made us vulnerable to a new kind of predator – the internet trolls. The term troll originally came from a fishing method online thieves use to find victims. It quickly morphed to refer to the monsters who hide in darkness and threaten people. What was once a geek with sublime ideals of free information is now a bogie trap waiting for your click, upload or comments. Tell it you're struggling with depression it will try to goad you into killing yourself.

Internet trolls are only a click, tap or swipe away. Hiding behind the veil (read screen) of anonymity they are like the shadow that follows you into a lonesome alley. They spread spurious accusations, ruin reputations, and have even lead to suicides.

In the garb of freedom, these trolls so conveniently enjoy, they make it their aim to harass others for the fun of it. They indulge in their darkest impulses, attacking their victims with impunity. The thin line between right and wrong, opinion and judgment, humour and humiliation doesn't exist for trolls. Once their target, what initially felt like a minor annoyance can escalate into a living nightmare, as it may be more pervasive and cause long lasting damage than traditional anti-social behaviours.

But why do trolls do what they do? Do they realize what their comment is doing? Do they feel responsible for their actions? Studies by psychologist suggest while a majority of internet trolls have a manifesto of sorts. While some tend to have a cruel personality trait, some do it only for the thrill of it.  What trolls do for fun ranges from clever pranks to harassment to violent threats.

Trolls glorify in their own worldview. They bait others on social media to mock and abuse them as they are motivated by a need for attention, boredom, a flash of excitement by causing others pain.

This digital invasion has changed the Internet's personality; and is seeping into every aspect of our lives. One facet that’s given space for trolls to thrive is the “online disinhibition effect.” This is the idea that anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time can save them from experiencing any of the negative social impacts that similar face-to-face encounters elicit. This has striped away the mores society spent millennia building.

Studies have suggested that trolls higher levels of psychopathy and sadism. They aren’t necessarily devoid of empathy. Instead, they have high levels of cognitive empathy. They employ this strategy for predicting and recognizing the emotional suffering of their victims while abstaining from the experience of these negative emotions. Thus, trolls appear to be master manipulators of both cyber-settings and their victims' emotions.

They've been steadily upping their game. Though psychologists have done a good job at explaining the forces which gave birth to trolls, they don’t really know who these people are and what drives them. In this new culture-war, the battle has just begun and we all have become servants in the escalation of entropy and eschaton.

First published: 22 March 2018, 12:11 IST
Aeshwarya Singh Mundel

#Mustang with a knack for traveling & writing~