Internet Culture for Beginners: What is a Troll?

Posted by: Maxine Brimmer (4 years ago)

Sometimes it might seem that the term “internet culture” is a bit of an oxymoron, but out of the collective of billions of minds communicating, sharing and creating, some kind of online identity was formed. Internet culture has evolved slang and humor of its own, and this isn’t always easy to understand for a casual or infrequent internet user.

One of the words you might see being thrown around on forums such as Reddit, or comment sections such as are found on YouTube, is the word “troll”. This kind of troll is not so much the 80s craze neon-hair sort of troll, but a little bit closer to the variety which sits under bridges eating goats. Like their fairytale counterparts, internet trolls are not pleasant at all, and in general calling a user “troll” is considered to be an insult.

The most common definition of a troll is an internet user who deliberately posting false or hurtful opinions to provoke as big a reaction as possible and cause disruption. Troll behavior can range from fairly harmless teasing (such as picking arguments about pop culture) to full-blown harassment along the lines of leaving hurtful statements on tribute pages. Generally this is done for personal enjoyment, but it is very common for such behavior to be encouraged by larger groups of online bullies.

More experienced internet users generally agree that the only real way to deal with trolls is to ignore them and thereby deny them any enjoyment they might get from your reactions. A commonly quoted bit of advice in many internet forums and message boards is “Please do not feed the trolls.”

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