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Why Trolls Puzzle Me

Just a quick one today and not gaming related. Still, I think the topic is relevant since we both find ourselves here cruising the blogosphere. I’m lucky enough to have a kind and courteous audience, but we’ve all come across trolls at some point. Trolls are those commenters who pop up now and again to disagree with a blogger and like to throw around insults to support their argument. At times, you might even see where they’re coming from before it goes downhill.

I think it’s reasonable to say that most bloggers probably expect to be disagreed with now and again. Most of those I talk to regularly actually enjoy it; it challenges them and fuels a discussion. A lot of us even talk the Free Speech position and don’t remove even low-balled attacks. That’s because we recognize the value a good comments section adds to the conversations we’re trying to create. But, trolls are another thing entirely.

I don’t understand them. See, if I don’t like what someone is saying on their blog the answer is simple: I stop reading. Maybe that’s because I’m a blogger and I know how much page views and Google rank mean to some people. But, just like in real life, I don’t hang out places that are directly contrary to how I feel. There are cases where I disagree, sure, but the debater in me wants to makes me want to convince the writer they’re wrong. The only way to do that is to show them. If I’m mad, I might even be blunt. But to attack? What’s the point? That’s kind of like going to someone else’s house and calling them an idiot for the color of their shades.

I bring this up because of a recent post over at Tobold’s blog. In it, he opens the door for people to insult him, get their trolling out there, and be done with it. A lot of people rose to the occasion and told him not to worry about it. Others rose in a different way and let loose. I have to admire what he did there. In a single stroke, he clearly identified the commenters whose posts probably aren’t worth reading, nailed them for continuing to hang on his every word (which, to me, says a lot about their personal lives), and let them provide the entertainment while he was away at work. Congrats, seriously, because most of them have no idea what really happened.

See, Tobold gets nailed a lot for having a thin skin. I don’t really see it like that. The guy’s human. If I got as many troll comments as he gets, it would bother me too. Hell, I had a comment recently that I didn’t quite understand and it bothered me. Blogging is an incredibly personal experience. Every post, the author is sharing a piece of himself with his audience. Some people are better at shrugging off criticisms, but most of us are friendly people wanting to be part of a community. Sharing is caring, right? I really don’t think getting annoyed when someone insults you is some personal flaw. When you put yourself out there, you leave yourself open to attack. That doesn’t mean getting insulted is fun or doing the insulting is OK.

I have to admit, it wasn’t even about me, but one of the comments on his post got to me. Commenter Proze made a point to not only criticize Tobold but also Darren of Common Sense Gamer and Andrew of Systemic Babble. Talk about pent up hostility; those two weren’t even involved! What bothered me is that this guy felt the need to dig at two people who, even if we don’t always agree (and we do agree, far more often than not), are nice guys. Normal guys, who choose to put their opinions on the internet about subjects they’re passionate about. I’ve yet to see either of them attack anyone else because, well, they’re nice people. So, unprovoked, Proze feels the need to insult them. You have to shake your head at that.

I imagine trolls in a couple of ways. Either they’re the embittered, button-down, semi-pro who can’t express their frustrations in real life, or they’re that kid who got a “needs improvement” next to social skills on their report card. Either one is honestly pretty sad.

Here’s what I really makes me wonder: at the end of the day we’re all human. The mask of anonymity the internet provides is just that, only a mask to hide the real person behind it. Whether you’re cruel to someone face to face or on the internet I don’t think makes much difference. So, when they look in the mirror and ask themselves “am I a good person,” how does what they say online somehow not count?

Anyways, that’s my thought for today. Have a great weekend all!

16 comments

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  1. Larisa

    I’ve not had as many personal attacks as Tobold has, but it has increased over time. Or maybe I’m getting more sensitive over time. Sometimes I feel as if my skin isn’t getting any thicker but rather thinner. It wears me down. As I said in the comment to Tobold, the personal attacks will be one of the reasons while I’ll stop blogging one day. There will be a point when it’s just not worth it anymore. And actually I feel that I’m getting closer and closer to that point lately. :(

    1. Victor Stillwater

      I don’t exactly follow your blog as I don’t play WoW anymore, but I can only imagine how many trolling comments you or Tobold get. :(

      I want to have thicker skin myself, so I can keep writing without worrying about detractors, as I love writing for the sake of it. :)

  2. Victor Stillwater

    I honestly doubt it greatly affects their personal lives if they spend just a few minutes a day disagreeing with a public figure. I mean, a few minutes of typing to give someone grief, sadly, isn’t a significant bit of time if it buffs their ego. :(

    That said, I’d love to treat everyone with respect and all, but there are times when, while I respect an individual, I would love nothing more than to link them to rickroll videos.

  3. Andrew

    Lol! Some asshat who has never commented on my blog attacked me in the comments of someone else’s site? That’s hilarious – speaks volumes for his courage and depth of character.

    I honestly don’t get people insulting me on my blog. Disagreeing, yes – but then we have a conversation, and even if both sides remain unconvinced of the validity of the other’s opinion it has always remained civil.

    1. Chris

      That’s what I thought. I’m with you on comments. I don’t mind people disagreeing at all. I’ve been swayed more than once, even. Trolling is the reason why I don’t write at Gameriot anymore. It can suck the fun right out of blogging.

  4. xXJayeDuBXx

    Oh yeah, well your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

    1. Chris

      Oh, now it’s on.

      Yo momma so ugly her momma had to tie a steak around her neck to get the dogs to play with her.

      Word, son.

      1. xXJayeDuBXx

        Nice one!

  5. We Fly Spitfires

    I find it incredibly strange too but I can understand the whole trolling thing. Well, understand probably isn’t the right word and I can’t fathom why people enjoy it but I do recognise and accept that it’s just a fact of life of the Internet. It’s probably due to a combination of anonomity and poor education, the result beign that people will just write random rubbish on a blog or forum without consideration or thought. They wouldn’t do it in real life (of that I have no doubt) but somehow because it exists in a cyber world they feel no restriction in spouting absolute rubbish. It does make me worry slightly about the future of humanity (forgive the melodrama!) when so many people can willing troll and consider it a form of communication.

    I don’t think I have a thick skin but I’m slowly developing one over the years. Unfortunately it’s probably the only way to exist with an Internet presence these days because, no matter how rational or logical you are, there’s no escaping trolling.

    Sometimes I do get the urge to copy Jay & Silent Bob though, find out where all of these trolls live, and go over there and beat the crap out of them ;)

  6. Emyln

    Interesting post. Mostly because I originally thought “Trolling” meant hanging about websites/forums/chatrooms but seldom or hardly ever contributing. When I do comment, agreeing or disagreeing its mostly positive or constructive.

    Which is what I’m guilty of. I rarely comment unless I feel a need to share and had thought myself as a troll. And I had assumed that the negative comments and such were “flames”.

    I did a little research and about 60% of the definition sites online agree that Trolling is mostly negative.

    So I pose a question for you, what do we call people such as me who subscribe to blogs but rarely contribute? (I think this is the 1st time I’ve ever posted on your blog but I’ve been following for about a year after Tobold’s recommendation).

    1. motstandet

      Lurker

    2. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      Glad to have you! I’d agree with Motstandet. I’ve most often heard it referred to as “lurking.” I’m guilty of that too, don’t worry. Mostly because I don’t often have time to comment on as many posts as I’d like to.

  7. Nils

    It is my personal opinion as blogger of a rather young and small blog that bloggers need a thick skin. I got a few personal-insult comments since I started the blog. I deleted them permanently and was done.

    However, I differentiate between strong words and insult. Insult is if I think that the other person wanted to insult me.
    Strong words are if they just did not care too much about my feelings.

    Strong words are ok. I also sometimes use them by accident, because I want to concentrate on the topic and not on foreseeing the others feelings.

    Proze’s comment, for example, is just venting. He does not want do insult anybody. He just uses strong words to say what he thinks. It is ok, in my opinion. Especially in a post that has been made for that kind of comment.

    Example: If somebody says “Nils focus on immersion in MMOs is soo stupid”, I would not feel offended. It is just his opinion and strong words.

    Now, if somebody comments on my blog to mock me, ignoring the topic, I delete his comments.

    I also believe in strong moderation to manage comments/forums. Thus, I might delete the above example if it is the whole comment and adds nothing to the discussion.

    A strong moderation has nothing to do with “censorship”. People in my country are free to state any opinion they want. They are not free to do it wherever they want. And they are certainly not free to shout loud enough for me to hear them in my house. Or post any comments they like on my blog.

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      Hey Nils, thanks for stopping by. Generally, I would agree with you. I very rarely delete comments (like twice ever). The only times I have are in the circumstances you described. Proze’s comment stuck out to me because it just seemed uncalled for. Darren and Andrew had nothing to do with the blog at hand and he didn’t support anything he said. As someone who’s followed and interacted with both of them, it just stood out to me.

      I’m glad to hear you started a blog, though! I’ll add you to the blogroll. Looking forward to reading it.

  8. Tobold

    Thanks for the moral support, Chris!

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