Online Troll: What is the Delineation?

In this modern age of social networking, communication has become faster and more efficient. People could share their opinions and participate on discussions affecting them personally or the society in general. There has been recently on online trolls, who are considered unwanted and irritating that create tension and deviation from the logical discourse on a social forum. On the other hand, many who are simply making an argument are often labeled as trolls as well. There is indeed a gray zone in determining, who are guilty of trolling and who are not. This is the focus of this blogpost.

Trolls came from the Norse mythology, who are creatures that makes the lives of travellers difficult. In the same way, online trolls make logical discussions chaotic and without purpose. These makes social discourse through social networking sites less meaningful and perhaps waste of time. Moreover, trolling should be differentiated from plain disagreement. The three elements of trolling follows to aid in the task of differentiation. All of these elements must be present to say one is engaging in a online trolling activity.

Initiates discord in discussions.

Disagreeing is not necessarily trolling. Expressing one's opinions may be done in a courteous manner or not. The manner of expression should not be judged ethically or morally, because everyone of us are different. One could start with a curse but end with a logical argument. That is discord but not trolling. This element is perhaps common between the two. There is no distinction on whether one is vulgar, asocial, sarcastic, apathetic or non-courteous in delivering one's opinion. One could be direct or anonymous but not necessarily trolling. Hence, this element is not a crucial factor for online trolling.

Aims to elicit strong emotional reactions.

Trolls wants to start plaguing others involved in a discussion. If a dissenting person is ignored in a discussion, there is no way this could be considered trolling. Being ignored maybe a sign of being a nuissance. However, when a person elicits any reaction from others, particulartly emotionally after making a disagreement, this could be a sign of trolling, but not necessarily it is.  Provocation is not trolling. A person expressing an opinion maybe just using his or her creativity, such that others are being provoked. However, just as with the first element, this is not the distinctive characteristic of online trolling. This could be just one of the three essential elements.

Makes extraneous and extremely irrelevant baseless arguments.

Completing the three essential elements is perhaps the most distinguishing factor of online trolling. This element should be seen both as a means or an end. Online trolling has a motive behind. It might be part of a propaganda of spreading lies or to discredit someone or something. On the other hand, the goal is to destroy using baseless, irrelevant and extraneous arguments. This means if the argument of another could not be answered, then the last resort is to attack the person. This is the fallacy of ad hominem. The aim is to stop the person from continuing in the discussion, thus the flow of discussion is manipulated according to the whim of the online troll. Moreover, one could be defending a seemingly half-truth with some degree of misinterpretation, but this is not online trolling. One is just expressing an opinion worthy of being rectified. Ofcourse, this is under the assumption that that person is willing to corrected. However, a troll will be never accept being rectified. The goal is just to annoy and destroy. Whatever argument, half-truths, lies, opinions or insinuations it would take, they will do it. That is just how online trolls are.

Online trolling could be seen in various perspectives. It could be considered as a violation of social and cultural norms and etiquettes, but it can not always be considered immoral or unethical as long as their is no intention of organized trolling to benefit one entity or person, manipulate the flow of discussion or inflict defamatory unfounded allegations to a certain person. Dissent is not trolling but dissent with the intention to deliberately influence the opinipns of others in a negative way towards a person or institution is another thing. Criticisms not based on empirical evidence could either be trolling or a mere opinion. Hence, it is really hard still to differentiate, but the three elements presented here could serve as a guide in distinguishing online trolls.


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