How the Internet Created an Age of Rage (Response)

In his article, Tim Adams discusses what trolling involves and what mentality trolls have because of anonymity and a general lack of rules online. Because of a perceived “mask,” people comment and post rude comments or make threatening remarks to individuals. People no longer feel the need to adhere to social normsl; Adam calls it “deindividuation.” Some troll for reactions and others do it because they are angry people. It has become a much bigger issue, however, with the emergence of comment sections on most entertainment news providing sites.

trollI don’t think trolling is as serious as people make it out to be. Yes, trolling is bad; it’s annoying, inconvenient, and generally unhelpful and irrelevant. The last word is important however: irrelevant. At the end of the day, people can ignore trolls and go on with their lives, just like a person walks by strangers every day. There are so many people and so many comments that it is not necessary to give them the time of day. Perhaps that seems a bit lax but this is because I don’t consider people who use explicit/violent language to be trollers. I consider this to be harassment. I think there’s ultimately a huge difference between saying “you suck!” and “I will come to your house and slaughter you and your family.”

Unfortunately, whatever it’s considered, there’s no real way to stop it without censoring, something that people seem to shy away from as though the rule “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” isn’t still great advice. Anonymity is something that should be permitted. So many things have stigma attached to them that it benefits all to be able to hide behind a username at some point in their lives. Not only that, but not everyone believes it is necessary to have an account for every website just so that they can provide insight. It would be unfair to people who genuinely want to contribute but who feel they can’t because they can’t remain anonymous.

I don’t believe anything needs full censorship. I think the most anyone can hope to do is moderate. I believe people should be able to express themselves and their opinions, whether it be positive or negative. That being said, people can still express themselves and say what they want to say without excessive use of expletives or without the need to threaten bodily harm. And if it can’t be said, it’s because nothing was being said in the first place.

pokemonAn excellent example, if not a bit off-topic would be the game Pokémon. There used to be a time where players could nickname their Pokémon whatever they wanted. And I do mean WHATEVER. If they wanted to name it after a body part or after an expletive, they had full rights and they weren’t censored at all. It’s important to note that no one saw your Pokémon unless you were interacting through use of a (physical) link cable. In the year 2014, it is now possible that I, a 20 year old in New Jersey, can interact with a five year old playing Pokémon in Japan. Players can no longer name their Pokémon anything that they want. Curse words are not allowed, the word “kill” is not allowed, nothing negative or excessively violent is allowed. This is because gamemakers realized that as the internet gets larger and the world gets smaller, it is much easier to be exposed to all kinds of negativity. They have acted accordingly by moderating what can and cannot be said.

WordPress already employs this; in the settings for comments on our personal blogs, we are able to blacklist any words we do not want a commenter to be able to post. This needs to be adopted by more websites so that, for the most part, no one is censored, people can remain anonymous, and people can still contribute and express themselves and their opinions.

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12 comments

  1. Great response! I agree with you regarding the irrelevance of trolling. However, for some it’s a lot more difficult to simply brush away rude and provocative comments. Even verbal abuse is considered hazing. In fact, just the other day I read in the news that a teenage boy ended up taking his life because of constant abuse over the internet. I’m sure the internet “trolls” responsible for the comments did not expect or intend for this to happen. Nonetheless, there must be some consequences for their actions. While the First Amendment protects our freedom of speech and complete censorship may be too extreme a solution, there must be some measures taken to hinder antagonistic behavior over the internet. Perhaps individuals can choose to remain anonymous but lose their privileges if it is suspected they are trolling. Even a warning to such individuals would be a big step forward.

  2. I like the example you used having to do with Pokemon. I am sure most people our age have played Pokemon at some point whether it was on Gameboy or a gaming console. I like that you used an example many of us could relate to because it really shows how the internet has changed. It also provides a clear view on how kids of all ages can be playing the same game together and so it has to be monitored well. What is going on in the game needs to be censored and that is what the internet tries to achieve.

  3. This response is full of a lot of insight and a great mix of examples when it comes to trolling and commenting on the internet. I am curious though, do you like that Pokemon now has those rules against naming your character certain things? I think your answer to that would be no, especially since you pointed out that you could be playing against a five year old and never know it. It’s a good idea to censor those things considering that we want me saying them to little kids in real life so why should we say it virtually? Regardless, I do think trolling is an issue, mainly because my mind is instantly drawn to those people who have taken their own lives after receiving hateful and negative comments on their blogs or posts or whatever it was. Whether those posters were anonymous or not, those words still hurt, and hurt so badly that someone died to escape it. I think a way to try and prevent this is when sites don’t allow anonymous commenters. Most often, those negative comments are only said if that person can hide behind an anonymous wall so that no one can come after them for saying what they said. I think a good rule of thumb when commenting anywhere is just if you wouldn’t say it in person to that person’s face, then don’t say it online.

    1. I didn’t like the rule at first; I was going for a Once Upon a Time themed team so I was going to name one Killian but they wouldn’t let me and it bothered me a lot. I started typing in all these curse words to see if they were blocked as well and they were and once I realized why, it didn’t bother me. I think, like trolls, if you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t at all. I do think however, that they should have a feature where you can opt out of international “random” interaction with strangers and that way you could name anything whatever you wanted. Or maybe, in my case, a more advanced system to root out curses from actual names; if someone wanted to name their pokemon shitake or hellojello, they wouldn’t be able to despite their innocence

  4. I agree with you that trolling is a non-issue most of the time. I’ve also come to see it as a permanent part of the internet that probably isn’t going anywhere, so unless I plan on throwing out my laptop I might as well get used to it. Aside from instances where serious threats are being made, it’s not worth paying any mind to. If you get seriously worked up about every negative comment you see, you’re going to have a really bad time. Also I agree that for some situations anonymity is pretty much required–like the blog Post Secret. Just because trolls thrive under anonymity doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to give it up entirely. I do not think that anonymity should be eliminated, but individuals should decide for themselves which sites to frequent based on how well they filter for trolls.

  5. I really like how you mentioned that there is a lack of control on the internet. If something were to be done about this trolling could be eliminated. I agree that most people troll because of the reaction they get from others and to basically pick a fight. This leads to many angry people and can cause an argument on websites. People should really have to follow some kind of rule on the interning and comment appropriately without causing issues with others. I also agree that everything doesn’t need full censorship on the internet, but some things definitely do and would prevent trolling from occurring as frequently. It is important that people can express themselves and give their opinion, but never just to make others angry or cause an argument.

  6. You gave a great example and insightful response! I agree with your opinion on trolls. Trolls are extremely annoying, but at the end of the day they are just typing nonsense. If you start getting heated over something a troll says, you’re allowing the troll to win. Also, I agree that there are varying degrees of threats a troll can make. Consistently threatening someone’s life should be taken seriously and law enforcement should be involved. Lastly, I really liked your Pokémon example; it is something many of us can relate to. Although I did not play Pokémon, I played another online game called Runescape. Like Pokémon, the creators of Runescape put more and more censorship on what you can say online. Curse words are automatically blocked and players can moderate and report each other if inappropriate things are said. When a player receives too many reports, they are permanently banned from the game.

  7. Trolling, like you said, is irrelevant. The only problem is that despite being irrelevant, a lot of those comments are hurtful. Unfortunately, some people are just not able to ignore hurtful comments as well as other people can. Maybe the author of the article was right; under anonymity, people are able to say whatever they want online because it won’t be traced back to them (unless some pretty in depth investigation goes on). I especially liked how you said there is a major difference between trolling and harassment. Many people just group it together and assume the issue is done and dealt with. That however, is a wrong assumption. You separate trolling with harassment by specifying how when someone says that they are going to come to your house and kill you is not trolling. And that is probably the best way to look at it. Once threats to livelihood and sense of safety are made, that is when a person crosses the line from “irrelevant” trolling to outright harassment. Additionally, the whole example of Pokemon is very apt for this conversation. Maybe because I played the old version with the link cable and have the newer version of the game, I can understand where you are coming from. Before when you had to physically link the gameboys together, you were in charge as to who you were trading pokemon with. Therefore, it did not matter what you named your Pokemon. But now that you can trade over the internet, they needed added security, or a form of censorship like you mentioned. Thus, names of Pokemon had to be kosher and gel well with everyone involved, so no more inappropriate names.

  8. I think this is an excellent response to the article! I agree almost completely with your ideas as well. I think that censoring is a bad thing, and while it would be nice if we lived in a perfect world where we didn’t have to think about taking away people’s freedoms in order to protect those with more fragile minds, we don’t The trolls will always be there, and like you said, the ability to moderate is key. Perhaps even giving two comment sections, one for the overly thoughtless commentary and one for the more well-behaved. Either way, it can’t be stopped but I would never personally want it to. It comes with the internet territory, and I think it actually serves to help toughen up people who have become increasingly too reliant on the Politically Correct movement that goes on in this country.

  9. I completely forgot that Pokemon used to allow their gamers to name their pokemon whatever they wanted. For the most part, I agree that trolling is irrelevant and unhelpful but I have seen times when it was wildly inappropriate and taken to a whole new level. I think your response has a lot of great insight. I think censoring completely will be detrimental to various websites so it’s really toeing a thin line as to what action to take.

  10. I have the same outlook as you when it comes to trolls. It really is not that big of a problem. I have seen a tweet or post that someone said ” I do not see how internet bullying is a thing, because you can just close the computer and walk away,” basically with all the internet settings and such one can just block them if they like. But i guess, to each their own.

  11. I completely agree with what you wrote in this article. Some things are inappropriate and if they are put online, then the people who monitor the activity of different posts show that they do not care about censorship. I loved the pokemon example, because you could name your pokemon whatever name you wanted it to be. You example shows that things like that are inappropriate and game makers need to take things like that into consideration when they develop games such as pokemon.

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