Trolling – A valuable public service!

I was thinking today, as I manuevered through the streets of Orgrimmar, that we often don’t give enough thanks to the trolls that pervade the internet. Thanks for the very valuable service they perform.

No, bear with me for a second, I’m entirely serious.

Every child has to grow up. As they grow, they must learn how to react to social situations.

In the years before the internet, cell phones and social networking sites, those bleak, desolate years devoid of any type of cultural awakening, back when dinoaurs roamed the earth and none of us had electricity or flush toilets in our homes, and nobody had discovered sex yet, we learned how to deal with people by working it through face to face.

When we said something other people didn’t like, something like “Jimmy’s an ugly dickwad”, we usually found out what they thought about it in a direct fashion, because one of their friends were probably standing nearby, and Jimmy the Dickwad would quickly be told what had been said… and since everyone was local in your little social group, Jimmy the Dickwad would then come to your physical location and show you his feelings by beating his chest and beginning the traditional “somebody hold me back or I’ll crush his skull” cycle of witty repartee.

There might even be shoving. 

If you went to my High School, shivs, zip guns and chains were usually the tools of first resort in engaging in this sort of boisterous banter, but that’s not a difference of type but simply scale. It’s still all hairy chest beating.

You quickly learned through direct experience what the consequences of your behavior would be, and you learned to choose your responses and expressions based on whether the issue at hand was worth the consequences. 

Not worth it as in “will this hurt, I don’t want to do it if I’m gonna get hurt”, that’s cowardice.

Worth it as in “Someone’s about to get real hurt if I say or do this, so is what I feel needs to be said or done important enough to make that an acceptable outcome?”

Nowadays, there is still the opportunity for direct physical contact and social interaction… unless the person has been home schooled.

But even so, far more of a person’s life while growing up is likely to be spent online. Social networking, MMO gaming, Twitter and AIM and IRQ (does anyone even use IRQ anymore?), cell phones and texting and all that crap.

The people in your immediate social circle might not even live in the same country that you do, let alone neighborhood.

Welcome to the new reality – John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

Welcome to the birth of Trolling.

And we finally get to my point; Trolls now fill the gap left by a lack of direct physical confrontation.

Wikipedia has a nice definition of a Troll;

Someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

In the virtual, social networking medium, there are Trolls, the bullies of the internet.

Much like any bully, nobody respects the troll. Everyone but them knows that they are socially backward, and likely to have fairly pathetic lives. It takes a remarkably inferior sense of self to derive a feeling of worth from scoring ‘points’ by successfully goading someone else into blowing up at your sillyness. We’re not talking about the most mature people on the planet, here.

But they provide a very, very valuable function.

We as a connected society have evolved to the point that we no longer blame the trolls for being the way they are. We simply shake our heads in sadness, knowing that they are the way they are, and nothing anyone can do will help them grow past it. No web-based intervention or 12 step program imposed from the online world will help them grow up. 

No, we may laugh at the trolls, goad the trolls, or ignore them, but we don’t expect them to change.

Ah, but what happens when we witness someone taken in by the troll? What happens when someone rises to the ridicule, gives in to their rage, or responds to the taunts?

We laugh at them for acting inappropriately to an idiot. We sometimes mock them for letting a troll “get to them”. We make fun of them for not being more mature about how they talk to people or react to morons.

We blame the victim for acting immaturely when they rise to trollbait.

We give them negative feedback for how they have acted in a social environment. When someone responds publicly to a troll by getting emotional, argumentative, offensive or aggressive, we make fun of them and show them that acting in that way loses our respect.

And if they want respect from the online community they are a part of, they find out that they’ll need to learn how to keep themselves from rising to troll bait.

The troll, simply by being a troll with their bullying ways, gives our younger generation a new challenge within a social environment that they actually CARE about, where they’ll have to learn how to manage their feelings in a more socially acceptable way. 

In time, the dance will inevitably become more formal, and there may even be ettiquette classes developed and provided in business schools on the proper way to respond to trolls, classes for that future executive that will have to make public pronouncements to an active internet community. 

It’s probably something that many companies already train their internal employees on, classes on “How to not look like a tool by rising to obvious troll bait when talking on behalf of our company”. I’m sure they call them semething else, but the intent will be clear.

I think it’s all bloody marvelous.

The next time you’re in a major city with trolls in your chat channel, please take the time to thank them, in all sincerity, for the work that they do. In their own way, wholly without their active desire and probably against their will, they are helping make the internet a better place for all of us to be.

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26 thoughts on “Trolling – A valuable public service!

  1. Love the “troll function” analysis!

    I have an off-topic experience to share that may be of interest to followers of BBB’s “how to get things done efficiently” raves and rants. The cruise ship Carnival Splendor was my home for five interesting days last week. Rave for the makers of the fire suppression system that actually worked (they kept telling us “there is no fire, only smoke). Rave for the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard and/or USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier who showed the cruise ship folks how to move large quantities of goods up and down ten flights of stairs.

    Wrong Way: everyone run up/down the stairs with a load of food/water/clean plates/dirty plates/ etc. Right Way: everyone stand on the stairs and hand the goods up/down to each other. Once they got the hang of it, everything could be shifted quickly and without exhausting the shifters. As soon as I saw the change of method, I thought of BBB.

    There is something basically unsettling about rudderless drifting, even with an aircraft carrier nearby, so a final Rave for the Mexican tugboat “Chihuahua” who was able to tow the xty-ton ship at more than 4 kph (not exactly speedy, but a lot better than 0).

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  2. And here I was thinking IRQ stood for Interrupt Request, and IRC stood for Internet Relay Chat.

    But to your point, I’d never thought of the socializing aspect of dealing with trolls. As usual, you open my mind to a new perspective. Which is extra special for a jarhead!

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      • I think ICQ is the one you’re looking for here. And I still use it, until I can get the last few holdouts to switch to XMPP. Google Talk got most of them to switch.

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      • ^^ ZAA
        ZFD
        ZAX1
        ZBM2
        ZEM

        OT: BBB, your sea story (yes I am a Sailor, so it is a sea story) on 031702NOV2010 was beautiful. My last command was a squadron and the most common error was BTKATM. WTB more sea stories.

        Thank you for continuing to post, since my druid became a prof mule you are the only druid blog I follow. Mostly because I am hoping for your “OT” posts, they are my bread and butter.

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      • “IRQ, IRC, iirc, idk, and idc.”
        “Who?”
        “IDC!”
        “Oh, he’s our shortstop.”

        It’s because that John Gabriel’s GIFT is true that I allowed and encouraged my youngsters to start playing online games like Everquest, then City of Heroes, and eventually Warcraft. I’d rather allow them to develop their own versions of the loathing and distrust that I have for our fellow man, rather than foisting upon them my own hatred for the great unwashed masses. At first, it was difficult to convince my wife that this was a good thing. She eventually relented. They’ve been lied to, sworn at, scammed, cheated, stolen from and watched guild drama. Yes, this is a Good Thing, since it was all from the relative safety and comfort of a very tightly controlled PC.

        The results? 3 of 4 turned into well-mannered, considerate young men, pretty well liked and respected by their peers, their peers’ parents, the teachers/employers, and the occasional cop that gets involved when high schoolers do the dumb things that they’re supposed to do before they’re adults.

        And since the other kid’s a girl, she got a pass on turning into a young man.

        So, thank you Internet Fuckwads for being the horrible traffic accidents on the information superhighway, and thank you bloggers like BigBearButt for helping the rest of us point, laugh, and set better examples.

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  3. The worst part about the growing troll population is that it seems like most of them are just copy and pasting from a crib sheet. At least there was some amusement to be derived from originality in trolling, provided you didn’t take the bait.

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  4. “Nowadays, there is still the opportunity for direct physical contact and social interaction… unless the person has been home schooled.’

    I’m not sure if you were trying to make a joke here, but the statement shows an ignorance of the social opportunities provided to Home Schoolers.

    I would love to show you our group of socially well adapted home schoolers and give you a peek at our schedule. I think you would find it surprising.

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    • I’m not sure you meant to be rude here, but your comment shows that you take things very personally and get very defensive.

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      • He does seem to be taking it personally, but to be fair, home schooling has a pretty substantive reputation.

        Personally, I disagree with any religious rationale for it. If you want to keep your kids from the knowledge with the net effect of discounting rational analysis, you are doing them harm. Safety, geographical logistics, and relatively low quality of conventional alternatives are more legitimate reasons.

        That said, opportunities for learning to function in society, and we’re talking functioning within a large pool of people who may be at best disinterested and at worst hostile to your viewpoints, are sparser in home school. Shelter has its place, but learning “how it is” is also vital.

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      • Huh?

        Was the original comment edited? As it stands now, Honorshammer’s comment seems pretty polite to me. In essence, (s)he said “Actually, that’s an incorrect statement. I have some knowledge of the topic, and can provide evidence in support of my claim.” Isn’t that the best way to disagree with someone? What part of it do you consider rude?

        Your reply comes across to me as quite a bit more defensive than the comment itself.

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      • I’m absolutely certain it can be taken that way. If you think less of me, I totally understand. I actually made sure I phrased my comment in the same way he phrased his, so if mine comes off offensive, but his doesn’t… hmm.

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  5. I’m sure that Chuck Norris and Bill Cosby would offer better commentary than I. . .BUT; Recently, I rolled a Horde toon to farm black tabbys on my server. On my particular server there is a relatively small Horde population, and the first thing I noticed on my new hunter was that there was almost no trolling in trade chat. In fact hardly anything at all in trade chat, except. . .posts about trade. It was surreal, I actually thought there was something wrong with my chat interface. I can’t believe how much more enjoyable the game is without the steady stream of worthless garbage in my chat client, and how nice to not constantly have to /leave /join trade every time I want to pug or buy and sell stuff.
    I realize that we will never fix the trolling problem, but it would be nice if something could be done, meanwhile my /ignore list grows ever longer.

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  6. I swear there is a troll in every battleground these days. Sixty seconds into a match they’re telling everyone how bad they are. How is this helpful? We’ve all been in some bad bg’s. It’s all I can do to keep from responding to them, but that’s probably what they want. I just can’t understand this behavior.

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  7. What I really would like to see is at least one or two servers from each PVP/RP/Regular that are for adults only… surely there are plenty of ways to confirm. I know, I know… you thinking/yelling “but adults are half the problem”. I agree with you whole-heartedly. I will take it a step further… but this requires a little more thought. These servers should have a “Server Council” for each Horde and Alliance. How many people in a council and who — I have no idea (I just kind of thought myself halfway into/outta this box). Well, this ‘council’ can get folks kicked off the adult server. So, I’m not going as far as banning, etc. but send the problem elsewhere. Haha, to match my ‘adult servers’… we can have all the bad eggs go to a series of servers; maybe they can call them: Efny and Efla (think about it but don’t burst any neurons….. I’ll give you a hint… each starts with ‘Escape from’).

    Anyhow…

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    • Or just community monitors. More active moderation of chat, with mods banning individual accounts from chat on a given realm would be a start. I realize this would require manpower to implement, but I’m sure most communities would be happy to help reclaim what is in a lot of ways a vital resource, thoroughly misused.

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  8. I think some of trolling is the internal trickster that all of us have to some greater or lesser degree. I actually really enjoy the trolling where someone is essentially doing something massively silly. I’ve

    For example some of my guildies were levelling fishing and due to one of our other members whining about not having enough fish to finish levelling cooking they decided to send all of the low level fish they’d caught in individual mails. They had to get a GM to delete them and the banter was hilarious.

    The abusive, unoriginal or offensively tiresome trolling on the otherhand is merely a bit pathetic.

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  9. I’ve never looked at trolling in that way. Essentially it teaches you to walk away from someone trying to get you to lose your temper, which is a valuable lesson. In the case of the bully, though, I fear I see it a little different – the bully can continue without fear of repercussion. In real life, a bully eventually runs into someone who isn’t scared to stand up to him, and if need be, push, shove, or shiv back. In real life, there’s external motivation 4 u 2 st0p tpyng liek this. But what do you do in a game like WoW?

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    • Well, I agree with you about the bully, but the bully himself is effectively neutered in online communities. They truly have only what power you give them, by how you choose to react to them. A bully in the face to face world has the qability to close into your personal space, ‘chest bump’ you, push you or smack your books or have a couple friends team up on you, whatever. He has the power to force you to have to respond. This means that you have to learn a much more direct method of smacking him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

      Online, the bully really cannot force you to give him any attention at all. He is effective only up to the point that you did not block your personal data when you created your website, gave out personal information that he could find to use against you, or found temporary ways around your /ignore.

      If you implement identity protection methods, don’t use your ‘real’ name or email, share your address, post your pictures… basically if you don’t do all the stuff that I (like an idiot) do, then all you have to do is say /facepalm, /ignore and move on without fear or regret.

      That’s probably a good reason why real bullies will never be satisfied with trolling… they can’t force you to respond, they have to hope you do. THe power is in the hands of the trolled.

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      • Very true.

        My take is that most of these (the real obnoxious ones) are kids or adults that would otherwise get their butts kicked in the real world.

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