Face-to-face meetings are always better than back-to-back ones—in the latter everyone is anonymous and there is no eye contact, which engenders a spurious drunken frankness. The faceless nature of social media interactions can excite a particular breed of people. The kind that are unsure of what to say but speak so much of it anyway. Out comes their vitriol, out comes their venom.
Every suppressed emotion is aired as they type out furiously, their fingers guns and their words bullets in their imagination. It is a mob mentality that sweeps all the jobless into one long sewer of swear words and spelling mistakes. ‘You are the pennies in my jokeys,’ they are apt to say, mixing their prejudices and porn.
Here they come on Twitter and Instagram, crawling into your DMs and email, cursing your ancestors, talking familiarly about your mother or father. Religion is an evergreen red flag. They hate you for your name, your gender, your offhand comments, your toenails...
And they are not shy to articulate their incoherence, safe in an endless ether. The free verse they favour has an on-the-spot quality to it, like they type as they think. A stream of consciousness that reveals more about them than anyone they address. A masked man is a bully, liberated and intoxicated by the guarantee of secrecy to strut and voice his inner meanness.
A look at the etymology. Trolls started out as antisocial dimwits in fairytales—you know, the villain who is also comic relief. And now they are antisocial dimwits on your online timeline—you know, the villain who is also comic relief. Internet trolling is a comparatively new sport, but as old as the internet itself. No need to dress up, no need to dust the dictionaries: just log on and, bam, you are bang in the middle of a barroom brawl.
In the virtual world, no one knows where you live. You get to be as judgmental as you want, with every big English word you know thrown in. Thank God, it’s Thursday, they say, for Thursdays are Troll Days. To be a good troll, the context has to be misunderstood and bad grammar is a must. But, most of all, sense of humour dead with last rites performed.
And though author Oliver Markus Malloy advises, “When a troll tries to piss on your leg online, simply reply with: ‘Does your mom know she raised a little as***le?’ It attacks him on so many different levels at once, he won’t know how to respond,” nothing incenses the troll more than total silence. He is all about the bait—when none rise to it, the troll feels trolled.