The Rise of the Troll, the Loss of Decency & Our Only Salvation

To say that this article is overdue is an understatement. It’s something we talk about all the time…and then forget and move on. It’s something we sympathize with but never empathize with…until it happens to us. It’s a growing epidemic…a virus that does untold harm.

The rise of bullying and trolling on social media.

A few weeks ago, Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones was bombarded with nasty messages targeting her race and gender by complete strangers (you’ve probably read about this disturbing story so I won’t go into details.) These premeditated messages were so hurtful and disgusting, that Jones took a break from Twitter.

While people can generally be rude and offensive, this unwarranted despicable behavior still took me by surprise.

Social Media Platforms and Hateful Interactions

The truth is, social networks meant to bring people together actually amplify the hateful rhetoric of a few, emboldened by the fact that interactions are never face to face.

Common decency is not so common anymore, and those who have never practiced it can easily join forces over social media. It’s easy to name call when you can’t see the impact of your words and actions. This is cowardice 101.

And it’s not just Jones who’s been a victim of these oh-so harmful trolls; plenty of men, women, and children (famous and otherwise) have come into contact with these appalling human beings. There’s a reason why many YouTube channels have blocked their comments- the hate is real.

The ease of creating accounts has propelled the rise of the troll. After all, you only need a working email address- no verification or identification is necessary. It’s no wonder cowards feel bold enough to make derogatory comments; their face is just a blue avatar.

When you add in the fact that platforms like Twitter and YouTube facilitate interactions between people who are not in the same circles, you have the perfect storm. These platforms are without a doubt a blessing for those born with the trolling gene.

What about LinkedIn and Facebook?

Firstly, LinkedIn attracts professionals who are less likely to leave a trail of trolling on social media. Secondly, the platform makes it tough to connect with someone you don’t know; there’s no way they’ll make it easy for you to disrespect someone you don’t know.

As for Facebook, its platform is designed to facilitate the interaction of people within a community. This community could be your friends, school mates, colleagues, and/or family, whose information appears on your feed, or it could be professionals in your niche who you can engage with in groups.

Either way, it’s difficult for a complete stranger to troll you. And unless you have an open profile which every Tom, Dick, and Harry can see, chances are that any troll-like messages will be filtered and forgotten.

Finding a Solution

So where does this leave us? Should we advocate for all platforms to require identity verification? This way, all trolls can be outed to their family, friends, and employers. Should we ask platforms like Twitter and YouTube to make it harder for people who aren’t connected (aren’t following each other/ aren’t in each others circles) to interact with each other?

These solutions seem pretty shit to me. They remove the convenience of social media, make networking harder, and they do not guarantee that trolls will lose the anonymity that allows them to survive. These solutions don’t even take into consideration the trolls who are not afraid to show their face and provide their details.

The only answer to this problem is top notch moderation. Every platform should have an efficient team of impartial moderators who can look at flagged comments and investigate abuse of the platform, in turn banning those who refuse to show common decency to others.

Look at Strategic Social Networking for example. This 122,000 strong Google+ community manages to keep out trolls and spammers, without stifling the opinions/speech of the members. Quality moderation is definitely the way to go!

It’s also our prerogative as decent human beings to ensure that hateful behavior does not come from us or those we befriend over social media. This is not hard to do!

Social media will never be a perfectly safe and enjoyable space, but it shouldn’t be so gut-wrenchingly bad that people need to take breaks from it. Think before you write, and don’t contribute to the trolling and cyber bullying that has left a mass of carnage behind it.

Written and published by Davina Ngei — Moderator on Strategic Social Networking. Many thanks for reading, and be sure to check out Strategic Social Networking Community on Google+ to connect with tens of thousands of IT professionals online. You’re also welcome to follow Strategic’s brand page on G+ for the latest industry news.