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“Have you noticed that there are more stupid people around these days?” a friend asked me one day. I put him straight. There are no more stupid people than there ever were… the difference is that we can HEAR them now that the internet has given them a bloody voice. You find them in the comment boxes of the newspapers and the “anything to do with the telly” sites mostly, treat and some of them manage to bash their keys in an infinite-monkeys-plus-infinite-time manner and come up with a blog or a facebook account of their own or manage to join a forum. The stupids are more vocal. But you can ignore them, because they are so stupid.
Harder to ignore are the trolls. Spend more than a little time on anywhere but the froufrouest twee-est sweetest sites and you’re going to come across a troll from time to time. Generally, trolls aren’t AS stupid as the stupids. They have other problems. They are bitter and sad little people. They look for the weaknesses of others and try hard to undermine them for their own entertainment and, I imagine, the entertainment of other trolls, though they are probably just as afraid of other trolls as they are of reasonable people, daylight and women. Trolls can be found everywhere, all over the world, but they come from a small base of archetypes, archetypes that I continue to catalogue here, because I’m sick of the snivelling little sods and it is CATHARTIC.
But, what IS a troll?
For some people who are entirely new to the net and know only of facebook, a troll is just a mythical creature.
For everyone else, trolls are the pest of the internet.
There are some who stick fast to the original idea of what the troll is, that “troll” can only describe an anonymous lurker on a forum who deliberately sets out to make mischief by picking arguments in order to elicit a fiery response. Of course, since I started this troll catalogue I have been told this many times, directed to the same wikipedia pages (fellahs, it AIN’T the bible…) and other catalogues of trolls. (and I’m paraphrasing…)”You’re not writing about trolls! Get your facts straight!”, “Tch tch, idiot, these aren’t trolls”, [start uber-nerd voice here] “Strictly speaking, a troll is not what you describe here… as, in fact, if you refer to wikipedia/blah/blah/, you will discover”. Strictly speaking, we ought not be calling what they describe as trolls either then, because strictly speaking, real trolls live under bridges. With nearby goats.
The net changes constantly and it is a wildly different thing to what it was when it was home to merely the super-nerd playing dungeons and dragons in wysiwyg-free operating systems while the rest of us were out enjoying our youth in the sunshine. There are new kinds of interaction to be had, new kinds of behaviour to be learnt.
There are plenty (and I am one) who think that the term “troll” can and should be used for the other kinds of deliberately unpleasant bastards on the net, anonymous or semi-anonymous, in forums, in website comment boxes, twitter, facebook and all the other gatrillion places where people interact. The important word is deliberately… (ok, yes, I have a couple of trolls who aren’t deliberately horrible, but a. they’re still a huge nuisance and b. if they sat and thought about it quietly for a couple of minutes, in the corner, they’d know that their behaviour was irritating and makes people want to claw out their own eyes).
A troll is not someone who disagrees with you. It’s annoying that the whole world doesn’t agree with me, but I do understand (I am expecting the rest of the world to, one day, decide to just put it behind it, and agree with me). I used to write quite a bit about Portugal (my adopted country) in my blog, and would take the piss quite a lot because I am a bit of a gobshite. Sometimes, someone would write me a comment asking “how DARE you talk about my country like that!?”. Those people weren’t trolls, they were just people who disagreed with me. The trolls were the ones who lurked on my site (we see IP addresses, you know, if we can be arsed) and would suddenly launch a tirade of abuse at me, threaten my children, tell me they knew where I lived, for no reason other than to upset or scare me.
If you’ve ever been abused by someone on the net out of the blue (it’s often totally random) you’ll know that adrenaline kick in the stomach that can take ages to subside, you feel sick, and the shitty things they said go round in your head for the rest of the day. You might have just landed a contract that day, got a pay rise, made a new friend, had 20 comments on a blog post that said “darling, you’re wonderful” (yes, to a blogger, that’s the best thing in that list)…. and a snivelling runt comes and finds you and says “you’re crap” in one way or another and your high is done for.
Not all attacks are brutal enough to ruin your day, but they can mar your mood, take the edge off a great conversation, spoil somewhere where you love to hang out. The worst thing is when it’s easier to just not to go to your favourite places, because of trolls, stalkers and maniacs.
About a year ago (I’m writing this in October 2011), I was trolled by a mundane little squit for no reason other than sport for him. It was nothing particularly offensive, but it was enough to piss me off and take the edge off my mood and I wondered why on earth such a whiny little eejit irritated me so much. I’d had a good day, done some work that I liked, then “nyeugh nyeugh nyeugh” appeared in my inbox (I’m paraphrasing again).
I decided to draw him and his little snivelly friends, to make me feel better… and I do.
If you’ve been trolled (in any sense, pedants), you may find this amusing.
If you haven’t, please feel free to use this catalogue as a field guide to spotting arseholes.
The trolls have been on my blog/site/portfolio all this time, but now that they’re growing, I thought I’d give them some space. Here.
Pictured here is a our troll “Symptom” and his enabler-strok
Of course, sovaldi sale he frequents other places; the porn and car parts places, maybe something about his football team, but as a participant there is only twitter for him.
Facebook is too sharey and nice for him, and he sees no reason to tell his aunts and cousins on there who he’s doing or what porn he’s watching, so he steers clear. He won’t troll your blog, as it would require his first finding your blog and then making the gargantuan effort to read it, if only the first paragraph. He might drop by the Daily Mail from time to time, but he can’t be bothered to leave comments there… he knows he’ll be drowned out by hundreds of other messages by idiots.
With his twitter account, he follows no more than 30 people and is lucky enough to have had about 15 people who followed him by accident. 140 characters to read is about right for his attention span.
His own tweets, however, barely need 80 characters, as he is unaware of punctuation and is as literate as a spoon. He is not, nor ever will be, capable of using “your” or “you’re” correctly, and the “they’re/there/their” dilemma is just about enough to make his tiny brain explode.
He is consumed with envy of the famous and assumes that everyone who is a celebrity of any kind is insanely rich and owns the car and the jacuzzi that he covets. Not that he’d ever use the jacuzzi. The only time he got near one, he chickened out then sulked for the rest of the day.
He tracks down the slebs on twitter (something that takes him HOURS) and uses his special talent (that of illiteracy) to write them nasty messages, out of the blue, to (we must presume) try to make them cry. He has a special, inexplicable loathing for comedians:
“@comedianA your a cnut you used to be funny your not know”
“@comdianB i hope youre dog dyes you wanker”
“@comdeianC your fat as your’e wifes”
Occasionally, the barely literate troll will find another barely literate troll and will goad the other with:
“@barelyliteratetroll1 you should tell @comedianA hes a cnut its a right laf”
“@barelyliteratetroll2 I got blocked by him already the basstard LOL”
If ignored, he will go away eventually, giving up twitter in favour of more beer.
He is in his second year at university. Therefore, he is now the world’s authority on whatever it is he is studying; maths, physics, computer science, political science, etc. No-one, but no-one, can possibly have an opinion on his subject other than he, his fellow students (although all idiots) and his professors (only slightly above idiots except the one that he hero worships). He looks fairly normal, so began university by making a few friends, but soon pissed everyone off with his negativity and unbending ideals. Girls who thought him quite cute now think him decidedly odd after he couldn’t look them in the eye and scrubbed his hands and face clean after a hurried and disastrous fumble in his room. It is easier for him to commune with “Bloody Road Death and Car Thievery IV” than girls.
He’s borderline OCD and, though he lives at the university, he still sends his laundry home: it is only his mother who can get his t-shirts brilliant white and ironed with a touch of starch, three of them per day.
On-line he googles for blog posts and forum messages by ANYONE that mention his specialist subject and flames them in the comment boxes and message threads for their stupidity (and fatness and filthiness, when he’s having a peculiarly bad OCD day).
He belongs to a couple of forums of like-minded pedants who are similarly under-educated in their subjects, and they get along most of the time, apart from the odd flare up when they get their knickers in a twist about worm-holes, Hitler’s economic policy or string theory.
He’s the kind of kid you’d worry might instigate a campus shooting.