The daily life of an internet troll

Today, your every move is guarded, every word under so much scrutiny – you’d think you were an elected Member of the Parliament.
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BENGALURU: If you’re an artiste, or a creator; if you have a talent for singing or dancing; if you have any dream in the world – you fear them. You see the trolls in your nightmares; the biggest threats to modern sanity. As a comedian/film reviewer/podcaster – my entire life depends upon putting myself out there for public scrutiny.

I like to believe I’m as stoic as Marcus ‘Daru-lius’, but it gets nerve-wracking on some days. Which is why I love writing this newspaper column. The biggest advantage is that nobody is going to troll me. Like you, dear reader. If you don’t like this column, you’ll simply move on to the news of Katrina Kaif’s puppy getting its own passport. A newspaper column has no space for comments or trolls.

But how did trolls become so powerful? How did they become the No.1 enemy to people’s sanity? One has to go down the dark alleys of history to find the answer. I firmly believe that two incidents changed the course of Indian history. The first was in 1950 when Dr BR Ambedkar presented the shiny, new Constitution of India. The second came in 2016, when Mukesh Ambani launched free 4G internet for the entire nation.

Remember how sane the world was before 2016? You could put out your work, and would probably receive a three-page reply from a Communist in Kolkata. Today, your every move is guarded, every word under so much scrutiny – you’d think you were an elected Member of the Parliament. I daresay in future decades, Indian schoolchildren will be asked to debate on the topic – ‘Free Internet: Bane or boon?’.

I have always been fascinated by trolls. It’s a diverse field of work with no boring days. You can troll Elon Musk and Narendra Modi on the same day. You can stretch your portfolio from trolling an actor, to a Nobel Laureate. It’s free of cost, and the dopamine hits you get from people liking your comment is more valuable than any magical medicine that Baba Ramdev can conjure up.

For the academically inclined, you could dig up a tweet from 2015 to prove your point. The amount of cross-referencing used in trolling would make a Supreme Court judge blush. For the technologically-inclined, you can morph images, using bad AI tools from Samosa ChatGPT. It’s a world with endless opportunities.

While we wake up with an intention to live out the best possible day, a troll wakes up and posts a hate comment. They then go to work or college, and post another comment during the lunch break. 6pm is peak time for content creators, and the troll is presented with a plethora of options. Drop in a homophobic comment, or spew religious hatred.

The argument of freedom of expression usually comes up here. And even if India has slipped to 159 out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index, I am a believer in democratic traditions. My plan is to play the waiting game. I plan to wait till Zuckerberg begins charging `5 for posting a comment on Instagram. And `27 (+GST) for sharing a post. Only Mark Zuckerberg can undo the damage caused by Mukesh Ambani. In this capitalist dystopia, true peace will reign when one billionaire one-ups another. Of course, it might be terrible for content creators. It will mean less engagement, but more contentment! Loka samastha Instagramo Bhavantu!

(The writer’s views are personal)

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