A popular television discussion recently debated the issue of trolling. Panellists included a lady who has faced such aggressive and vulgar trolling that she found herself at the cop station, registering a complaint. The panel discussed probable ways that could inhibit people from attacking others so viciously and so freely. The moderator proposed a ban on anonymous accounts. If people are easily identifiable, they may not conduct themselves so unreasonably and violently. It may lead them to consider their use of words and to think their thoughts through before vomiting out the first aggressive reaction they feel. Another view held that people have the right to express themselves, even anonymously, and that in any case, people, even as themselves, are sending obscene threats to those whose views they don’t like.
Why curb it?
While the debate over freedom of expression can seem unending, people, on and off the panel, agree that trolling is touching alarming proportions. A ‘troll’ is defined as an ugly, despicable cave-dwelling creature. Trolling is the act of being aggressive on the internet because you can. There is no check on preventing you from unleashing your nastiness from the comfort of your ‘cave’. The ‘cave’, however, is not all-protective. The effects of trolling are grave at both ends. The person who is trolled may suffer anxiety and mental anguish, as a consequence. Alternatively, they may become numb to the harshness expressed on the net. Either way, it is a cost to human sensitivity and resource. For the troll, the effects are similar, if not more serious. First, by shunning the tone of better language and thought, the troll breaks into a base and violent zone. To be in this zone makes the troll as vulnerable to violence as the victim.
How it works
The tone of voice we use for others is often what we end up using for ourselves and for those who matter to us as well. So, if some strange woman is a “bloody, f------ b----,” before long, the mind will echo the same words for any woman in our circle. This can happen unconsciously. Since there is no sense of holding back or being tolerant, our minds loosen more and more, and we are more easily driven to violence. The verbal barrier now broken with loud and abusive voices in one’s head, it can reach a point where even the most vulgar and abusive words/thoughts don’t express the aggression we have allowed ourselves to feel. At this point, it becomes easier to sink into the zone of physical violence. It could begin with breaking things, before actually hitting out at pets and people. That zone further reduces tolerance and reason, to feed into a vicious cycle of spiralling ferocity.
The final straw is when there is a real crisis. A person of such temperament has diminished coping skills. While lashing out at others gives a momentary feeling of power, in effect, it eats away at things that are actually empowering. The person may become increasingly powerless to face a crisis or address a problem effectively, since the roots of resilience, reason and quiet strength have been abandoned for a baser, looser tendency of mind and being. The result, again, is a loss of human capacity and positive ability.
Imagine, then, extreme situations caused by climate change—excessive rain, floods, snow, heat, earthquakes and the like. With electricity out and internet down, where might a troll express his or her viciousness? And of what help he or she may be at all?