Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don't Feed The Trolls

One of the most important characteristics of New Media is that it encourages and empowers average citizens to say absolutely anything. In many ways this is a good thing. People are given the ability to express their ideas in ways that were not possible in the past. However, it is clear to anyone who has spent even a few minutes online that the Internet can be a dark place that has the potential to bring out the worst in people. Typing elicits a liberating quality that causes people to communicate in a completely uninhibited manner. This can be a positive quality because it can lead people to speak candidly about something uncomfortable, but more often than not it is negative because it leads people to write things that they normally would not say vocally. As Dr. Levinson says, “the synapse between anger and the expression of it was a lot shorter and quicker when it went to fingers over a keyboard than to tongues in in-person conversation (New New Media 170).

Trolling and flaming have become art forms that start wars. Facebook becomes a war zone with planned events to meet and fight real life battles, people take sides and load up on artillery in the form of insulting comments, and F-bombs are dropped without any restraint. Could it be that in-person communication forces humans into submission, whereas computer-mediated technology frees human nature from restraint? Many arguments start from simple misunderstandings. The sense of what is rude and polite is automatically understood in face-to-face interaction, but we lose this understanding in electronic communication--many willingly disregard etiquette all together. Luckily, the computer monitor acts as a shield to protect us from the flames. The problem is when online skirmishes migrate to real life, and real people--like Megan Meier--become victims.

Its hard to scroll through a comments section on a blog or website without seeing arguing or trolling. There are a lot of fanboys out there, and they spend a lot of time in their natural habitats; message boards and comment sections. Being an anonymous poster seems to remove the last remnants of courtesy. Its even worse in online gaming because you take on an anonymous body too. New media asks users for a lot of personal, or even private, information and it is common for people to misuse it. I've seen arguments begin on Facebook between friends and family, which then translate to real world arguments. So much of the discussion that takes place online is unnecessary and trivial, but still leads to anger. It makes me wonder, in spite of all the benefits new media provides, if the positives outweigh the many, many negatives.

1 comment:

  1. ah, trolls, don't get me started. this is a much broader problem, albeit not as harmful, as cyberbullying.