July 30, 2013

Are We Giving Trolls Too Much Attention?

troll

The creepiest thing about ‘trolls’? The fact that they are everywhere. Sorry to alarm you, but there was one probably sitting next to you on the bus this morning. Looking all relaxed with their headphones and iPhone? Probably having a casual troll. Scrolling and trolling, that’s what I call it. I bet we walk past at least one every day. They are not just sad lonely people who only feel truly alive when they bombarding people behind a keyboard, they are actually real people that wonder around our planet. Normal people who buy sandwiches from Pret and go to the hairdressers and stuff. Probably.

It should not be something so easy to get away with. And sadly, at the moment, it seems to be the case.

‘Troll’ is a strange word really. The word ‘troll’ for me conjures up Disney villans; figments of our imagination be it old dog-eared fairy-tale books or the latest action-packed movie in 3D. Trolls are in books and films, they were never meant to be real. According to Google search and Urban dictionary: A troll is “a large, brutish creature of European myth, often lacking in intelligence.” Sadly these modern-day creatures are not a myth, but definitely are lacking in intelligence.

There is a famous saying: “do not feed the troll.” This essentially means, do not provoke it, or encourage its behaviour by responding. Do not reply. Ignore the troll. Trolls are silly, sad, jealous (delete as applicable) and therefore getting bored if they are not receiving any retaliation. But how easy is it to hold back against these awful online creatures? It is in our human nature to want to win, stand up for ourselves and fight for our beliefs.

You are probably following the news relating to Stella Creasy, Claire Perry, Mary Beard and most prominently the activist Caroline Criado Perez at the moment. If not, go grab the nearest newspaper. These women wanted to demonstrate strength in women by campaigning to put Jane Austen on a £10 note. Regardless of gender or ‘proving a point’ Jane Austen deserves to remembered and honoured in this way – it is not some big scary feminist flag-waving, but it is a moment in history to celebrate. For doing this, and putting themselves out there, they have received praise, but with it an avalanche of the most awful kind of basklash. On a social networking site, where you normally would receive tweets of praise and kindness, turned into a platform to throw the most depicable messages at these women. And of course, this must be dealt properly with.

My only question through all of this is: are we giving the trolls too much attention? The main goal of a troll is to get some sort of kick out of getting a reaction. Otherwise, why would they do it? And today, on my way home I dipped into the Evening Standard and saw direct quotes from these troll Twitter accounts. I then saw quotes from the trolls on every online article. I then saw on Twitter that the women in question are retweeting these nasty comments by the minute.

THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT. They wanted to cause a stir. They want to make the headlines. They want to see their troll-tastic names in lights. I fear it will only spur them on.

Today, Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine brought attention to an awful troll who went by the name of ‘Oliver Rawlings’ who tweeted out to his 188,000 followers defending Mary Beard (who Oliver had said some seriously disgusting things to). Vine also mentioned the said troll on his radio show. I completely understand why anyone and everyone would want to jump to Mary’s defence, of course. But the only problem with this that it is feeding the troll. It is engaging in a dialogue. The best thing to go: report the offender, tell the police or the appropriate person, but to then disengage. Do not even give them the satisfaction of caring about their existence and petty words.

It is important that we stand up to them, but by highlighting their viciousness daily is not going to solve the problem. United silence against them? Maybe.

I know everyone is doing what they can to look into the investigation and find out who they horrific tweeters are, and to make sure it’s easy to report violence online. But please please, let’s not feed them anymore than we already have.

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