Lawless Land of the Internet

Edited by: Tejawsini Vondivillu 


Before the advent of the interweb, trolls existed in fairy tales and obscure Scottish moors, drudging around, picking their teeth with human femurs. You know, the usual. They were stupid, brutish, long-nosed, hairy, bug-eyed and horned (the last one is quite debatable). We have since evolved and moved past the mythical trolls of the yore who ate farmer’s goats, to a far more sinister contemporary version. I present to you the “internet troll”. I picture the anatomy of an internet troll to be something like this: the brain which accommodates the mischief factory and bloodthirst gland, the heart in charge of performing the functions of pity eradicator and rage inducer, the stomach for bitter irony housing and legs made up of atrophied muscle mass.

But the inherent physicality of their features doesn’t matter much because they temporarily abandon the confines of recognisability on the internet. This enables them to unravel the full extent of their hate (most often in the form of poorly punctuated comments) under a false name. A person could be doing something as mundane as talking about how they like their eggs, and a fellow internet Samaritan will crawl out of the woodworks, ready to lambaste the unsuspecting victim, taking egregious potshots hoping to get a rise out of them. They are a defining subculture of the internet who make inflammatory comments to bring comedic value to ones’ life while simultaneously disrupting the workings of another. Given the extremely exasperating nature of the troll, one would be tempted to draw them a meme (the internets’ version of an infographic) to reroute them right back to hell. But gauging the climate on the world-wide-web will prove that everyone is big on the whole “don’t feed the troll” shtick. Now, I will have you know that whoever told you not to feed a troll is a hideous liar. Not one of those people sat hunchbacked in front of their computers, fingers poised to type away, will say, “Oh you didn’t raise to take the bait? Well played, man.” fist bump you and go on their merry way.

This conventional knowledge of the internet will fall flat especially in the face of millennials who’ve collectively decided that relentlessly posting about the next big thing that riled them up with little to no knowledge about the subject at hand, is the sole purpose of their existence. The trolls capitalize on this unwarranted, misplaced rage and spout wilfully obtuse nonsense that is designed to get a rise out of everyone. These trolls have a manifesto of sorts, which decrees that they are doing it for the ‘lols’. If you fail to see the humour in the same situations as them you are diagnosed with a lack of sense of humour and are dismissed with profanities which they take to be the highest form of intelligence.

This is a repercussion of the disinhibition that comes from being online, where factors like anonymity and invisibility strip away the mores society spent millennia building. The famous parable from Bion of Borysthenes: “Boys throw stones at frogs in fun, but the frogs do not die in fun, but in earnest.” perfectly encompasses the effect the actions of trolls have on their victims. In a way to amass the maximum amount of “lols” for amusement, trolls have turned social media into a giant locker room from a terrible chick-flick, with towel-snapping racial epithets and misogyny.

Everyone is constantly on the look-out for opinions to bandy about as their own and in its pursuit will speak with insincere motives, like saying something in a political debate that they don’t mean. In the atmosphere of inclusivity and 'safe spaces', people have started worshiping tolerance at the expense of rigorous discourse. People have surpassed discussing problems of intrinsic value in the real world to policing users’ grammar on the internet. Grammar Nazis morph into personalized autocorrect software (albeit less polite versions) to point out the missing apostrophe inelegantly wedged between E and S in the word peoples. These crusaders with no tangible mission, relish locating another paper dragon to slay and will do so with utmost smugness. But when put on the pulpit to justify their Twitter tirades, these braggadocious chest thumpers will have nothing to say.

It is quite impossible to out troll the troll simply on account of how baseless and frivolous their reason for argument is. Controlling and containing the troll in the social media dog house is also not an option given the sheer size of the community. What we can do is realize that it is okay to entertain ideas that make you uncomfortable and question the real emotional experience behind pouncing on minor infractions of rules. Meanwhile, I will be sat here waiting for the next exposé on the idiot politician who tried to grope his masseuse and working on my ‘unintelligible crap people on the internet say’- Spring 2021 Edition.