Trolling, trolling, trolling

I’ve always defined a troll as someone who deliberately incites an argument, perhaps using insults, but last night’s Insight program on SBS clearly emphasised the distinction between inciting debate and bullying or abusive behaviour.

Occasionally it feels like language is changing.  Misogyny now appears to mean sexism and all provocative behaviour on the internet falls under trolling.  It doesn’t enhance debate and it gets messy when people misinterpret things.

I have no idea what possesses people to jump onto blogs, news forums or even Facebook to stir up trouble but I am concerned that people are confusing it for some new type of activism.  Slactivism if you will.

One of Insight’s “Trolls” and his doppleganger Theon from Game of Thrones

That trolls feel they are the authority on mundane conversations and it is their duty to stir up trouble is such a delusion of grandeur and I don’t think upsetting people is a clever way to inspire people to question their own firmly held beliefs.

If you can’t challenge someone else’s opinion without using respectful language then it might be time to step away from the computer.

How do you define trolls? 



  1. says

    I define a troll as someone who is deliberately nasty in an attempt to get a reaction. And they make me sick. There is a big difference between trolling and simply expressing a dissenting opinion. But the person who is dissenting needs to be careful to play the ball and not the man. It’s when things get personal that things disintegrate (ie it’s like stacks on)

  2. says

    My idea of a troll is someone who doesn’t ever post under their real name, always has something nasty/insulting to say and I very much picture miserable people IRL who may or may not live in their parent’s basement. I don’t understand why people think it’s ok to be so mean on a computer screen. I’ve seen chatter about people who disagree with OPs being labeled trolls as well and I think that’s sad. The day we lose the ability to have a discussion on both sides of an argument is the day we might as well all stop blogging.

    • says

      Aah laughing at the basement comment! It’s sad that some people now fear having an opinion in case they upset someone but it’s out there…I feel that way myself quite often.

    • says

      Oh yes, newspapers. I don’t think their moderators help by letting many of them get through, I often wonder who’s writing them half the time!

  3. Sharron says

    In my experience Trolls are always anon posters and I was always taught that if you are not prepared to put your name behind something or you would not say it to someones face then you should not write it. Trolls seem to have none of these concerns. Best ignored but always hurtful.

    • says

      Best ignored, it was interesting to hear one of last night’s trolls saying it’s not trolling unless the person enters into the debate. I’ll remember that next time!

  4. Krystle Sky says

    Yeah I found last nights program a little alarming. It was interesting how the trolls all seemed keen to downplay the seriousness and potential consequences of their actions. I’m not sure where the line between trolls and bullying is, but for me it’s much the same thing. Whether anonymous or not, calling someone fat (as the above guy did), just to get a rise, isn’t challenging opinions… It just plain bullying as far as I’m concerned and I don’t think many people would find it funny.

  5. Kerryn Woods says

    These people seem to have massive egos and zero sense of social responsibility. Humour? Really?

    My definition of a troll has always been someone who posts inflammatory comments with the intention of provoking an emotional response, for no other reason than their own “entertainment”. They take pleasure in upsetting people they don’t even know, which is definitely not normal behaviour.

    More recently, the word “troll” has been applied widely to all sorts of other situations, but a troll is not, as I read in one newspaper article, simply someone with an opinion who wants to be heard. They are nasty, vicious and don’t care about the consequences of their actions, probably because the victims are faceless and often nameless to them.

  6. bachelormum says

    I was unable to see Insight but tweeted the SMH article on it on Monday. The interviewee basically said she did it for a laugh and that it was not bullying nor malicious. But to stir and insult somebody repeatedly is bullying, and it’s no joke. I think they’re just trying to justify a sick mind or weak personality. Bullying is so much more prevalent on the internet because the perpetrator can hide behind a screen. There’s a word for that too.

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