Trolling Etiquette – Art of Ethical Trolling, Provoking for LOLs
Trolling on the Internet has developed bad press. There is nothing wrong with trolling. If people publish, everyone has the right to respond in any way they want on a forum, provided its not abusive or bullying.
Modern Internet trolls are simply like cartoonists or performance artists making a joke, trying to provoke a laugh, and make merry.
Often their input can defuse situations by getting people to laugh at themselves. It is the responses that can turn a dark joke into something more sinister.
Trolling is not cyber-bullying, or it should not be this. Trolls may deliberately undermine or mock political arguments, culture and topical issues in an amusing and witty way (like a cartoonist), perhaps belittling or provoking a response but without the intention of bullying are abuse.
Often the response triggered by show an underlining guilty conscience or poor grasp of the issues and their consequences by the one trolled.
It is a mistake to lump trolls in with other people who use the Internet to vilify, harass, threaten and intimidate others.
Trolling is a fun play on words or concepts to provoke a LOL response or a little more, without deliberately trying to damage or condemn.
The problem lies with the response made to the provocation created by trolling. Some victims take the bait hook line and sinker, mostly out of pride, guilt, anger and the fear that they are being mocked or belittled.
They may respond in a way that suggests that they have been threatened or condemned rather than sharing the joke. Others resent the intrusion into a 'private' conversation. Forums and other responses that are open to everyone or members signed in to a group exchange system are not private.
Ethical Trolls never call a spade a spade – they merely sow a seed, or start a little brain rot to undermine the foundations of what is being said. To provoke is not a crime, especially when its funny and never intended to be anything else but funny – LOL.
Calling all trolls cyber bullies is wrong. Trolls can be provocative, annoying and embarrassing for individuals, groups, companies and institutions, just as cartoonist are, but they don't ban cartoonists, well rarely anyway.
Trolling is a form of Street Art or Graffiti on the Internet, without the anonymity, well mostly anyway.
The ethical troll's motivation is very similar to have fun, make people laugh, mock and undermine and to provide another point of view that often goes to the heart of the situation or puts it in a broader context by relating to similar situations.
Trolling is an art. It requires finesse, knowledge and often research to make the best responses. The best trolls are extremely witty and clever. Part of it is provoking people into making an unconsidered response which exposes the victim's weak argument, bias, or narrow focus.
There is nothing bad about challenging the status quo and accepted norms. There is nothing wrong with trying to push for changes to laws, or policies, or mocking ingrained attitudes and conventions. There is nothing wrong with protesting, posting replies, or giving commentary, extra context or background to an issue.
The most experienced trolls sit under the bridge and watch the Internet traffic pass overhead day and night, looking for “victims” who are judged to be ripe and ready for a ripping and a bit of fun.
They caste out their bait by wiggling worms of provocation. They hope for a bite or two from emotional responses. Then when the rod bends they hurl in their catch, letting them fight a bit against the line rod and reel (or is that real).
They evoke a range of responses before they release their catch from lols, polite no comments, to rage and hurling of insults.
Sometimes they get as good as they post. The Internet is a public pond and many people may join in casting their own baits out or taking sides and feeding the fire that can become a feeding frenzy. After a while you don't need bait - a bare hook will do.
Ethical trolls try their best to always be facetious, perhaps implying insults, mocking or belittling but never malicious or bullying. The best troll artists are performance artists with the world wide web as the stage. Trolls are funny, clever and cerebral rather than abrasive or insulting - certainly not abusive.
The aim of the troll is to evoke a reaction - not to lay a blow or a damaging punch or to be a vitriolic bully. The aim is to disrupt and question the status quo to hopefully stop and make people think for a moment and to give a context to the situation or another side or perspective.
Yes, trolling can have its sinister side, because its such a broad term. Downright cruel and mean attacks which amount to bullying and abuse rather than trolling do occur.
But this is not justification for banning all trolling. People who post to forums need to have thick skins and know the art of good trolling responses and replies - LoL.
Of course there are many questions. For whom the Bell Trolled? What's your view on trolling? Have you ever suffered by being trolled, and how did you feel and react? Why do you think trolling is so prevalent on the Internet, and what should be done about it?
Comments and trolls welcome, but the answers are moderated.
© 2012 Dr. John Anderson
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