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Entries tagged 'cat:Trolls'

Real Life

Of all the things people do wrong in the usage of language, this is probably my pet peeve. Maybe because I believe that I can reasonably argue against it.

People use the term "real life" ("IRL" and, very similarly, "real world") as if it would mean the opposite of "online" or "over the internet" or "using some electronic medium". Hereafter I will call this the wrong usage of the term. It is done so often and regularly that it actually does mean one of these things. Before I describe what I think the problem with it is, let me try to explain what I'm talking about, exactly. Both of those words (real and life) have meanings on their own and using them together is absolutely in line with those individual meanings. I don't find it absurd to expect that the phrase means "the life that is actually true, as opposed to fictional". In fact, I consider it better to expect this meaning because not only did this meaning exist first, it also continues to be used. "The real world" is used meaning the opposite of a virtual world. I suppose the internet was considered to be a virtual world in the beginning and assume that that's where the wrong usage of "real world" stems from.

The main problem that I see is that when people regularly and naturally apply the wrong usage, the notion that the internet is not part of the real world, the real life, is reinforced, which I fear may influence the perception and the expectation that what happens on the internet does not have the same meaning or effects on life as things that happen without the internet playing a major role. In some ways they are (e.g. greater possible audience on social media than on a soapbox), but not in the way the use of "real world" as the opposite implies.

A conversation in a chat room can be much more real than a conversation offline. E-Mails, their meaning and effects on the world aren't less real than those of letter written or printed on paper. A confession over a video chat platform is not unreal compared to a confession over a telephone call, which is not unreal compared to a confession given in close physical proximity, just different. A threat posted in a Whatsapp group doesn't have less impact than a thread yelled at a schoolyard or under four eyes.

I imagine that the more this wrong usage is ignored the more its wrong implications get internalised by society and individuals. I wouldn't go so far to assume that there is a relavant relation between the wrong usage of "real life" and "real world" and the prevalence of "cyberbullying", online harassment and other extreme forms of modern trollship. But I also don't think the possibility that language influences the thinking and by that extension the actions of humans should be overlooked. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some connection to be found. But I don't know of any research on this nor would I expect to find any.

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Trolls - Winning Feels Like Losing

Sometimes I realise late that I'm interacting with a troll in an online forum, on Reddit or on a mailing list. For the type of trolls who delibertely try to confuse and seem to be sincere on the surface while following the goal of inducing frustration or otherwise spreading negativity, I have to give to them, that makes them good at what they are doing. But none the less it makes me feel bad all the more. Not much for wasting my time, but for being honest to them while they know they aren't honest to me. I feel betrayed when I conversed more than one or two messages long with a troll.

And that's what happened to me again today. I gave them the benefit of the doubt even after I realised that they had been given many chances to see they made a (simply and definitely provable) honest little mistake but didn't take a single of them, had not responded to a single direct question while constructing a kindly phrased little unrelated allegation out of nothing instead. After a few more messages with no progress I had enough and started to type my response to inform them that I'm not able (or willing? see next paragraph) to view their motivations as sincere. I felt a bit mad and that feeling became stronger the more I re-read what they had posted. But I wanted to make my final response complete and correct, so it seemed necessary to invest this emotion. And I did intend to make this my last post in the thread. I wanted them and maybe others who were still following the thread to know that I'm fooled no longer by this troll. I'm glad I realised that that was still feeding the troll and refuted what I was trying to convey before I submitted my post. I did the right thing by not continuing to give them a fulfilment of receiving any attention at all. But now this is an unclosed chapter in my mind. I'll call it unclosed memory so that I have a term (and category tag) in case I want to refer to similar experiences on this blog in the future. I guess that's the reason I'm making this entry. I did it, dear reader! I got out when I finally did realise what was going on.

I'm imposing this label "troll" on this person and even have a drawer in my mind for people who acted similarly in other threads that I've read in the past. But the thing is - and that's probably a banale thing to say for anybody who has done some thinking about online trolls before - I couldn't prove that they are, even given a perfect defitinion with clear criteria. I don't know their intentions. I want to feel a little bit proud for giving them the benefit of the doubt for longer than apparently any other participant in the thread. I believe that it is ususally the right thing to do to not assume malicious intentions in somebody's actions even after you had the realisation that that is a possibility. I want to be the person who assumes kindness or lack of knowledge before assuming bad intentions. But I'm still often very naive (mostly the kind of naive that makes me tell strangers my weaknesses, like being naive), even though that has changed a bit in some situations. But I always assumed I'm being made fun of or that people try to make me look like a fool rather soon. I think I can hardly know with sufficiant certainty whether that's the case in situations like the one described above. So I will feel unsure whether I made the right decision. (Not that I suspect it matters for this person's life in this case. But in principle.) Among the reasonable things to do with experiences like this I've marked "tell somebody about it" and "discard the memories of it by not trying to bring it up again unless it severly impacts my life" as good options. I've dine the former by writing this here. I'll go on to do the latter now.

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