Friday, September 13, 2019

Quickies: Trolls

     Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig enjoys it. -- from a lapel button

     I spend a lot of time thinking about motives. That’s a common thing among writers. If we’re to write plausible stories about believable characters, we need to understand why people do what they do, including people we’d regard as evil, irrational, or insane. The typical writer probably spends more time on it, over the course of his working life, than the typical psychiatrist – and there’s important information in there.

     Lately I’ve been thinking about the motives of people who troll around the Internet looking for people to insult. Just in case you’ve spent the last twenty years in a coma, there are a lot of them. There are a great many of them on Gab, my preferred Twitter-alternative. Given that Gab allows its users to block those they find intolerable, they must know that that’s the response to a blatant insult that most Gab users will choose.

     Think about the implications. The troll doesn’t convince anyone of anything. He doesn’t present an argument for any position. He certainly doesn’t elevate himself over his target. He doesn’t gain anything you or I would deem worth having. So why? What gratification does he receive from his activities?

     I’m particularly puzzled by trolls who insult on the basis of religious belief. I get a fair amount of that, being an unabashed Catholic. One jerk mocked me for “worshipping a Jew on a stick.” At least he was creative; most of the trolls rely on more conventional jabs: “weak minded,” “confused,” “believes fairy tales,” and the like. One fellow asked if I needed “the comfort of an imposed structure.” Do you think any of them seriously expected that they could get me to doubt my convictions that way?

     This might be something that only trolls are equipped to understand. It might go to some pleasure-mechanism that’s peculiar to them and alien to us. If so, it might prove a fertile field for research. For my part, I’d rather write stories, but no doubt there’s someone out there who needs a subject for his doctoral dissertation, or perhaps to hang a federal grant request on.

     All praise to Gab’s Block button! Appropriate use makes your corner of the Internet more tolerable, a wee bit more civilized. In a way, it’s like moving to a better neighborhood. And the best part? It’s free! It reduces the nuisances you must endure at no cost to you whatsoever. Alleluia!

     Hm. Maybe I should have kept that last bit to myself. I shudder to think of the implications should the administrators of Gab decide to impose a fee on its use.

1 comment:

Lurking Reader said...

Trolls do it for self-amusement in my humble opinion. You watch one in real life, it's like a game. They throw out a zinger, smile triumphantly, as if they scored. This is their reward. No thinking on the merits of the discussion, nor listening. It's all about winning and slamming down the other person with the best one-liner.

The Bible says, "Do not cast your pearls before swine." I will not engage nor talk with trolls. Instant ban if I discover a troll. They can "score" against an empty room all they wish and never been seen nor heard.