Trolls 101

A troll is best known from fairytales; a gruesome creature that lives under the dark depths of bridges, waiting for an innocent passerby to snatch up. As the Internet grows to be more and more social, the appearance of Internet trolls, not quite different from trolls hidden under bridges, becomes quite overwhelming. Like their fairytale counterparts, Internet trolls also hide, but behind a screen. They go out of their way to cause trouble with innocent Internet users. While they’re not quite as physically gruesome, their actions can certainly be.

So, what exactly is an Internet troll? Merriam-Webster defines one as “a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content.” Defining the term in this way however, implies that all trolling is the same. This is certainly not the case. Trolling can range from doing it for the laughs, to something much more serious – harassment.

Trolls who troll for the “lulz” make silly or sarcastic comments on videos or pictures, mocking the concept or the user who posted it. Those who comment on controversial posts make points that imply that their opinion is the only correct one or they try and throw off people who are genuinely passionate about a topic. However, one of the most vicious forms of trolling is known as “RIP Trolling”. This is where Internet trolls harass the friends and family of their loved ones who have passed away.

One of the best known examples of “RIP Trolling” took place in 2010 to the friends and family of teenager, Chelsea King. Chelsea was only 17 when she was kidnapped while out on a run at Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Five days later, her body was found. Friends and family went to Facebook to create a memorial page for Chelsea where they could post condolence messages. However, soon after this, a man named Mike McMullen created the page “I Bet This Pickle Can Get More Fans than Chelsea King,” based off of the page “I Bet This Pickle Can Get More Fans Than Nickleback.” The page featured a photo of a cartoon pickle holding a PhotoShopped cutout of Chelsea’s head. The entire page was instantly hit with offensive images and comments by trolls as well as messages from those trying to defend Chelsea’s memory. It was a page filled with so much crudity for someone that these trolls barely even knew. It made the lives of Chelsea’s family and friends, who were only trying to cope with her loss, unnecessarily difficult.

What compelled McMullen and the others who posted such horrible things on the Facebook page? Why do people even troll on the Internet? It stems from a number of things. The trolls may be depressed, attention starved, angry, jealous, narcissistic, or simply just bored. With emotions at an all time high, people usually speak before they think. Trolls with such emotional struggles do the same, with the added bonus of remaining anonymous behind a screen. This leads to the second reason why people to troll- the ease at which they can. Anyone with a computer and internet connection can do it, from the safety of their homes, with their computer screen, screen name, and avatars, serving as a mask for anonymity. Those who troll can simply just turn off their computers when they’re done and carry on with their real lives without facing any consequences. When trolls are not being held accountable for their words and actions, it makes it extremely easy to get away with.

Most social media apps and websites are filled to the brim with trolls. Here at Selfeo, we challenge them. By removing the anonymous screen in between trolls and their opportunity to troll, Selfeo puts a spotlight on them. On Facebook, if a user posts about a topic that they are passionate about, trolls can easily pass on derogatory messages in the comment section. With Selfeo, the comment section is visual. The only way a troll can troll is by creating a video Selfeo back to pass on their usual sarcastic and mean comments. Most likely, they will be too cowardly to reveal their faces, almost eliminating their existence on the app. Selfeo requires trolls to step up and express their opinions face to face, causing them to scurry back under their bridge.

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