The term “trolling” is used to describe a particular type of Internet behaviour, whereby someone uses a forum or comment section on a website to deliberately provoke and aggravate others, perhaps by positing an extreme point of view that they know is going to annoy people and be a source of conflict.
Why do people engage in this sort of behaviour?
The fact is, the Internet has developed very quickly. The use of the Internet as a mainstream source of information and communication is still less than a generation old. Whereas most cultural changes occur slowly, giving people time to adapt to them, when cultural change happens quickly, it can be hard to adapt.
In real life situations, our interactions with other people are typically codified by specific behavioural norms. We know how to start, conduct, and finish conversations politely, and few of us use our social interactions to deliberately annoy or goad others. We may disagree on political or other highly charged matters, but most of us are able to discuss even very different views politely.
On the Internet, however, the normal rules for social interaction are often completely overlooked. Many of us use forums and comment sections with a pseudonym, so we feel as though we can say what we like, without the fear of repercussions, as nobody knows who we really are.
When we see a lot of Internet users engaging in “trolling”, the practice may become normalised, so that it seems like an ordinary form of behaviour. If “everybody does it”, it may seem that it’s a fine way to behave—great fun, and maybe a good way to stimulate debate.
The reality is, however, that the way we behave online has repercussions for us, and for other Internet users. We need to ask ourselves why we write and say the things we do. Certainly, the Internet can be a great place for robust debate, and there is nothing wrong with a strongly worded exchange of views, provided everyone remains civil (there is never an excuse for directing profanities or threats towards other Internet users).
However, if you find yourself tempted to do or say things just because you know that your words will hurt or provoke others, you need to walk away from the keyboard and ask yourself why you want to act out in this way. Is it good for you? Does it meet a psychological need?
In fact, engaging in trolling and other unpleasant Internet behaviours can be very damaging, for the person who does it, as well as those who interact with them. It can become addictive, and the behaviours can even start “leaking” into our real-life encounters with others—where, of course, they risk ruining our friendships.
Who can I speak to about “trolling“?
If you would like more information about “trolling“ you can speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.