I remember distinctly a girl who was in our class in grade 8. Someone who may be called a ‘very fat’ girl. She was the center of attraction of the class, not because students liked her, but because of her weight.
In today’s age of social media, people constantly create pages for promotion and discussion. What came as a surprise was that a page was created on that girl. The purpose: to post hilarious jokes about her physical appearance. It stirred up quite a buzz within the school and soon, everyone was enjoying the best laugh of their lives.
What the girl going through could only be understood when the class got to know the reason for her prolonged absence: depression.
This is what a troll essentially is. What all people sharing on social media platforms have in common is an expectation to get likes, and for others to agree with them or at least disagree with respect.
However, contrary to their decent expectations, more often than not, they get ‘trolled’ in different ways. Be it body-shaming, or ridiculing in a dark way. An act of trolling, created for the sadistic pleasure of the sender or just to stir up some fun, affects the receiver greatly.
With the rapid advent of social media and its ever growing popularity, posting online could elevate you to the position of kings and queens and help enjoy enormous amounts of limelight, or it could push you to deep dark trenches of depression and suicidal thoughts. What decides the latter is abusive commenting and trolling by others.
Who creates those trolls is a question which has gained enough importance to be researched about. A Canadian study shows that most of these trolls are created by those who have severely dark personalities and inhibiting traits such as narcissism and sadism. Such people aim to stir up controversies and for the sake of seeking attention too.
What will it be like to talk and comment about anything we want to without being known? How convenient and safe it will be to pass on comments about anything where there will be absolutely no one to monitor our activities. That’s the weapon that people who troll have: anonymity.
The comfort of a couch at home and the freedom to write anything without the fear of any backfire (except virtually). Hence, without the sense of personal accountability, free flow of words and comments are exchanged.
With the spread of internet and social media globally, there is a growing desensitisation among the online fraternity. Hence, trolling and personal attacks are shot out on people without a sense of morality. Thus, in this large global arena of the internet, with millions using Instagram, Facebook etc. it is very easy to write anything or troll someone and then immerse oneself in this huge mass of people on the internet without worrying about being ever found out in this crowd.
Another study from the Pew Research Center found “66% of Internet users who have experienced online harassment said their most recent incident occurred on a social networking site or app.” Recently, PewDiePie decided to disable comments on his YouTube channel as he was unable to shut the trolls.
It shows that the worst hit are celebrities who face immense trolling every day. Many of them either delete their accounts online or start facing mental health issues such as low self-esteem, and even depression.
In this age where a lot of emphasis goes on understanding one’s rights and freedom, an unfortunate clash exists between trolling and freedom of speech. How does one define the line between these two? How can one stop the person who is trolling by putting forth the argument freedom of speech and expression?
Does that mean everyone can go about saying anything without any fear of consequence? How can hurting others’ sentiments be looked separate from the right to freedom of expression?
These questions have grey answers to it, but a definite line has to be drawn to ensure the well-being of all the internet users today.
Democratisation of the social websites gives everyone the right to express freely. Although, with freedom comes great responsibility. Let those who do not understand this moral responsibility and internet ethics face strict actions. Laws are speedily coming up with penalties of heavy fines and even jail period of several months to years for severe bullying online.
Let the chaps who troll mercilessly behind the veil of anonymity suffer the results of their horrendous actions. In this strife against the trolls, may the victims become the victors.