Sunday, July 29, 2012
The Care and Feeding of Drunk Trolls
"The psychologists call it "deindividuation". It's what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. The classic deindividuation experiment concerned American children at Halloween. Trick-or-treaters were invited to take sweets left in the hall of a house on a table on which there was also a sum of money. When children arrived singly, and not wearing masks, only 8% of them stole any of the money. When they were in larger groups, with their identities concealed by fancy dress, that number rose to 80%. The combination of a faceless crowd and personal anonymity provoked individuals into breaking rules that under "normal" circumstances they would not have considered.
Deindividuation is what happens when we get behind the wheel of a car and feel moved to scream abuse at the woman in front who is slow in turning right. It is what motivates a responsible father in a football crowd to yell crude sexual hatred at the opposition or the referee. And it's why under the cover of an alias or an avatar on a website or a blog – surrounded by virtual strangers – conventionally restrained individuals might be moved to suggest a comedian should suffer all manner of violent torture because they don't like his jokes, or his face. Digital media allow almost unlimited opportunity for wilful deindividuation. They almost require it. The implications of those liberties, of the ubiquity of anonymity and the language of the crowd, are only beginning to be felt."
Tom Postmes, a professor of social and organisational psychology at the universities of Exeter and Groningen in his native Netherlands, and author of Individuality and the Group, has been researching these issues for 20 years. "In the early years," he says, "this online behaviour was called flaming. And then that became institutionalised. Among friends, the people who engaged in this activity were actually quite jocular in intent but they were accountable to standards and norms that are radically different to those of most of their audience. Trolls aspire to violence, to the level of trouble they can cause in an environment. They want it to kick off. They want to promote antipathetic emotions of disgust and outrage, which morbidly gives them a sense of pleasure."
Read it all The Age of Rage.
Do Not Feed the Trolls. They have their own source of food and sustenance. They do not live under a bridge. There is no electricity under a bridge to run their internet devices. Do not waste your pity on them. While they are pitiable, they are broken trolls. You can't fix broken. They have to go to the Broken Troll Hospital and there is a long waiting list. Unfortunately, few of them realize they need help. That is part of the Drunk Troll Syndrome.
Do not fear. The world works in extremely predictable ways.
In ancient Greek, hubris referred to actions that shamed and humiliated the victim for the pleasure or gratification of the abuser.
In Greek mythology, Nemesis (Greek, Νέμεσις), also called Rhamnousia/Rhamnusia ("the goddess of Rhamnous") at her sanctuary at Rhamnous, north of Marathon, was the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods). The Greeks personified vengeful fate as a remorseless goddess: the goddess of revenge. The name Nemesis is related to the Greek word νέμειν [némein], meaning "to give what is due".