Starved for attention: The devastating impact of internet trolls

If you are versed in the art of surfing social media, every once in a while you see someone going off on a page that is not their own about what people should or should not do; what is appropriate from what is not and basically have a self-righteous funk that will stink up the internet for days.

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Yup, we call those ‘mean-muggers’, trolls and just like the hateful creature in the book we grew up reading, they will come at you out of nowhere and try to steal your very peace of mind if you let them.

If you still do not understand who an ‘internet troll’ is, the Urban Dictionary refers to them as someone who makes comments on internet posts or message boards and these remarks are usually controversial, off-topic, inflaming or childish. They are enough to enrage people to want to respond which starts a cyberwar and often changes the topic and attention away from the original discussion.

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Most internet trolls use the power of anonymity to say cruel things to others on social media.

So why do trolls have so much power over other people’s social media platform? Simple.  The world population is 7.3 billion and the internet has 3.17 billion users and is growing daily. With these numbers you are bound to have the same kind of negative people online that you would meet in real life, only thing is, on the ‘net’ they do it from a place of anonymity.

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In other words, you have no clue who is behind that computer screen, tablet or cell phone and because they know they are anonymous, they believe it gives them carte blanche to go to town on people and bully them with their opinion. There is a difference between expressing one’s opinion or having a strong personality and just being a bully hiding behind a screen.

Case in point: in 2017, Olympic and world champion hurdler Omar McLeod brought home the only gold medal of the games for Jamaica. After his historic win, someone asked how would you caption his image of jubilation at his success. One troll hiding behind a major company account, no less said ‘goldfish’ in reference to his presumed sexuality and a firestorm kicked off.

“They need validation and attention… [so] they trash people as if on a witch hunt and create problems where none previously existed.”

So what do they get out of trolling people? Typically these people are described as attention seekers who probably do not get enough attention in real life and need others to acknowledge their self-worth and existence.

In other words, they need validation and attention but instead of going about it the right way, they trash people as if on a witch hunt and create problems where none previously existed. The saying ‘misery likes company’ can aptly be applied or from a psychological point of view: hurt people hurt people.

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Trolls have caused people to shut down their social media accounts on popular apps such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as the wave of hate and vitriol is widespread and ongoing, even when their pages or accounts are reported, they simply create a new one and start the ‘trolling’ again.

In extreme cases, people have been bullied excessively about their bodies, look, sexual orientation etc and this has led to depression or tragically suicide, so at no time is trolling cool or okay.  The best way to deal with a troll is to ignore them. Arguing with them gives them the attention they seek. If you starve the flame of oxygen, you can put out any fire.