Hiding Behind the Mask: Dissociative Trolling

Trolling as a mask is a common theme in Dr. Whitney Phillips’s book, This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture. In her book, Phillips describes how trolls operate in online spaces to elicit amusement from the reactions of other online users. Trolls can put on a “mask” that allows them to separate their off-line identities from their trolling identities. Phillips explains that other trolls can identify fellow trolling behavior but that people who “have no decoding mechanism, often don’t realize that there are signals to be decoded-making them the perfect target.”

For this assignment, I created an actual mask that reflects some of my interaction with internet trolls. I belong to a sorority and there is an enormous amount of content on the internet devoted to both praising and vilifying greek life. Any news story or opinion piece about greek life usually draws lots of opinionated and inflammatory comments. Phillips notes that the “trolls’ talent for emotional firewalling is matched only by their ability to recognize and exploit their target’s attachments.” Sororities are a great target for trolls because their members are devoted and often take any criticism of the organization personally due to their intense emotional connection to the group.

My mask displays some of the common insults used against sororities. I have seen people calling us a drinking cult, or saying that we only pay for friends. I used found objects to create this mask that a troll would hide behind to make these hurtful comments for the “lulz.”

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