Psychology of Social Media Trolling!
What is Social Media Trolling?
To put it most simply and directly, when a member of the online community purposely tries to attack, disrupt, or offend within the community by posting offensive comments, photos, videos, GIFs, or any other form of online content, it is called Social Media Trolling.
One can find online trolling all over the internet, such as in the comment section of Youtube videos, Emails, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, blog comment sections, or any other open forums where people are allowed to freely express their opinions visible to the whole online community.
All of us have experienced trolling in one form or the other on the various groups we might have joined on WhatsApp or Facebook.
Who are these Social Media Trollers?
(From here on, they will be referred to as ‘idiots’.)
Wait ... in order to answer this question, we need to answer fifteen relevant questions first:
1. What is the background of these idiots? Qualifications? Social status? Bank balance? God knows!
2. Are they the experts on the particular issue on account of which they troll a person? No!
3. Do they understand the context of the situation? No!
4. Do they personally know the person they troll? Have they met the victim in person? No!
5. Who all are responsible for that situation and the circumstances that follow? No clue!
6. What will be the impact of their trolling on social media? They are least bothered!
7. What will they gain out of trolling? Nothing!
8. What will the social media communities gain by their trolling (or opinions)? Nothing!
9. In case the person being trolled takes an extreme step such as self-injury or, in an extreme case, suicide, who will be responsible for the consequences? No idea! (There have been incidents of self-harm and suicide as a consequence of trolling in the past.)
10. Is there any procedure laid down to deal with the extreme consequences of trolling? No!
11. Who will be responsible to look after the victim's loved ones post the accident? No one!
12. Is there any way that parents of teens can check if their kids are being the victims of online trolling? No!
Before jumping into the million-dollar description of these idiots, we need to first understand some other contextual circumstances that help trolls to flourish online.
Cheap Internet Services & Smartphones
Smartphones: Most of the Indian population now has smartphones, courtesy cheaper handsets made available because of the aggressive global competition in the smartphones industry. Xiomi has revolutionized the Indian smartphones market by successfully reaching the obscure ends of all our suburbs, towns, and villages. One might not even find proper electricity in some of these places, but smartphones will be ringing on top volumes in the households there still.
Internet. With Reliance Jio penetrating deep into the Indian telecommunications market since the mid-2016, causing the rise of cut-throat competition in the telecom sector, any tom, dick or harry can now get a whole GB of mobile data every day for 84 days for only Rs.300!!! Who can compete with that price?
This has directly resulted in anyone and everyone to access the internet and create a presence on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. More the people, more are their opinions, and most of them are negative. With 1 GB of data every day, a person can troll the whole world, everyday!
With cheap smartphones and mobile internet services, the life of a human being and all his social engagements have gotten sucked into the smart device in his hands.
As a result of this addiction to smartphones, human beings have invented various ways and means to stay connected on social media 24x7. We have collectively crossed all possible limits of updating online about who is doing what, when, and where.
With the development of artificial intelligence, automation, and digitization, a lot of jobs previously handled by humans have been taken over by computers, AI, and automated machines.
Examples of Banking and Taxis
1. Banking. Banks serve the best example of this. A major chunk of banking activities are now being done on the internet, thus eliminating the requirement of humans to do those various jobs. Just by hovering your fingertip now over your mobile screen, you can successfully transfer any amount of money anytime, anywhere, and to whomever!
2. Ola and Uber. In this day and age, mobile apps such as Ola and Uber allow us to summon taxis at our doorstep whenever we want. This has ensured jobs to many unemployed youths who can manage to own or rent a car, have a driving license, and know how to use basic mobile apps such as google maps.
Cheap (Internet+Smartphones) + Unemployment + Frustration = Social Media Trollers
We should be able to relate now how cheap smartphones and internet services supplemented with unemployment give birth to Social Media Trolls.
Unemployment leads to frustration which seeks to be vented out somewhere. In reality, if a person physically tries to harass another person, bigger in size or more powerful, we don't need to imagine the consequences.
So, the easiest way to vent out one's frustration is by logging on to one’s social media accounts using cheap internet services, set a target, then ready, steady, and shoot! It is immaterial whether one has any clue about anything.
Competition. In order to survive the cut-throat competition and win the race of providing masala news 24x7, the reference point of news reporting has changed completely nowadays. Instead of running around for actual news, reporters have developed a favourite strategy to just sit with a laptop or a smartphone, connect to very high-speed internet, and search for such online trolling happening around.
Insensitive Feeds. If they find even one such incident that might be spicy enough for their equally insensitive viewers, they turn it into a national headline, without ever thinking about the victim's plight or consequences. More than actual news that is worth the nation’s attention, media houses prefer to report 'Who is trolling whom!’ This is very much observable in the case of Bollywood celebrities and politicians.
News Churning. No one is bothered about whether the reported troll is even worth reporting! News factories need to keep running, no matter if the news being produced is good or trash; there is just no mercy at all. What could be the impact of giving such attention to a troll? No one is bothered to find out!
Politics. During the Lok Sabha Elections of 2014, online trolling increased to a whole new level. Social media had successfully derived one equation. Rahul Gandhi = Pappu. Now whether this equation is right or wrong, only God knows!
Fake Social Projection
Image Filtering. With the many image-filter options available on social media platforms, one can apply just any number of changes to their pictures, posts, videos, etc. Many a time, the absence (or even presence) of these filters over the pictures of a particular person can become a good source of entertainment for a troll.
Cut, Copy, and Paste. With the option of customized posts and pics freely available on the internet, we all feel extremely comfortable in copy pasting already popular images and opinions on our social media accounts to gain likes, projecting as if we also feel the same way. But do we actually practice life the same way as we project on our social media accounts? The answer is no. Now, if someone actually posts a true opinion about an issue, then such a soul finds himself flowing against the social media current, hence, inviting the trolling to start!
Unwanted Surprises. When a person logs onto their social media account and finds some unwanted comments regarding a picture, post, blog, profile, etc., depending upon the seriousness of the troll a sudden surge is experienced in the victim's blood pressure. Panic kicks in. The emotional shell of the victim cracks. The victim starts creating an invisible defensive cover around him. A thought process around the ways and means to counter that unwanted comment commences. Why?
Due to that one unwanted comment that is visible to the whole world and every other troll who is sitting online in whichever part of the globe. Therefore, the initial stress will slowly convert into a panic attack as the strength of the trolls increases.
This issue is very much relevant in case of WhatsApp and Facebook groups. A minor joke at the expense of one member in a group of 200 or more will never be taken in a light mood and may take an ugly turn. People have even committed murders over Social Media Trolling.
Now, every troll is different. One just cannot predict the level to which any particular troll can stoop down to. The last troll becomes the reference point for other trolls to starts from. This becomes a basic timepass for every idiot online on any social media platform at that particular moment.
In the same manner, every victim is also different. One can never predict how a troll can affect a victim's life. Since a victim doesn't know the exact identity of the troll, the level of panic just escalates.
With cut-throat competition in the tech market of India, it is only natural that smartphones and internet services will grow cheaper still. Automation will lead to more unemployment. Therefore, there will be more frustration and a proportional increase in the strength of the army of the trolls!
Soon enough, survival on social media without trolling will become next to impossible.
What to do?
After reaching this point in the article, we are sure that the reader should be able to understand the actual scenario behind the social media trolling.
1. Ignore the Trollers! There is absolutely no requirement for you to invest any sort of emotion or time in thinking about the troll, as made clear in every relevant scenario mentioned above. The troll, once ignored, will die its own death. Trolls are IRRELEVANT in your life.
2. Punch Back. In case you are a sensitive person who panics over minor trolls, it is strongly recommended that you hit back the troll in whatever way most appropriate. Just give a solid punch back. Let it get murky. Let the remaining trolls also learn the consequences of touching your soft side. If the situation is not contained then and there, be prepared for more trolling and things getting out of control in a phenomenal way.
3. Be Realistic. Don't project a fake lifestyle on the internet. At the same time, don't feel afraid or shy in putting across your true self.
4. Quit. Although we appreciate that this option is better said than done, we have seen many people live a very peaceful life, on account of Zero Presence on Social Media! Follow this advice for once and see the 180 degrees turn in your own personal and family life. The kids of such people are also generally not at all addicted to social media and live a happy and peaceful life like no one else.
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