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One man’s commenter is another man’s troll…

All it takes is a news report on the death of a statesman, rock legend or movie star to bring the usually silent contributors to internet discussions scuttling out of their holes, pouncing on the slightest opportunity to cast their pearls of vindictive wisdom before the common swine of social media.

Such was the case this week with the deaths of both Hollywood star Paul Walker and elder statesman, Nobel Peace Prize winner and all-round international man of the people, Nelson Mandela.

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From the first post on my Facebook newsfeed the morning of Walker’s tragic accident, messages of sympathy and condolence appeared every few minutes, (at which point I have to admit I Googled his name, not being a fan of the Fast and Furious movie franchise that made him famous) and it soon became obvious that he had been a much loved and respected figure in an industry so often populated by superficial and cynical egomaniacs.

In an age when celebrities tend to see a chance to do good deeds as more of an opportunity to get good publicity, it was good to discover – albeit in tragic circumstances – that here was a man who really did “do a lot of work for charity, but I don’t like to talk about it”, not only setting up a disaster relief charity in the wake of a tornado which hit Alabama, but also personally funding and helping distribute aid in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
All without the slightest hint of a photo-op or magazine exclusive.

And yet not 24 hours after this online outpouring of seemingly genuine grief and compassion, the mean spirited, troll-like inhabitants of the Weird Wide Web hunched over their permanently sticky keyboards to start producing rants and memes that would render any subsequent display of public emotion trivial and confrontational.

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First we had a wave of rants berating users of social networking sites like Facebook for posting memorials to Walker which failed to also commiserate with the families of Roger Rodas, the driver of the car in which they both died.
As if they themselves had been busy posting tributes to Rodas the whole time, champions of the common man that they are.

But that was nothing to the pseudo-indignation that was unleashed when, a week later, Mandela died and the whole world mourned a man who many considered the father of modern South African society, a man who was the face and voice of oppressed black South Africans even during 27 years of imprisonment.

It was then that the Trolls went into creative mode, knocking together a particularly fine example of their art.
This one featured pictures of both Walker and Mandela, but instead of showing respect to two good men it chose to once again castigate those unfeeling enough to have paid tribute to a mere film actor when there was a real-life, bona-fide saintly hero to be eulogising.
The text went along the lines of;
“If you’ve spent a week grieving over a dumb movie star and don’t know who this man (Mandela) is, then YOU are what is wrong with the world”

Now, this automatically assumes that anyone with the compassion to mourn for a charismatic and generous entertainer is unable to feel similar emotions toward a Nobel winning politician.
But worse than this is the fact that people are then encouraged to engage with these agent provocateurs, giving them the satisfaction of responding with the skewed logic of trolls everywhere.

For despite having started off their diatribe seemingly in support of the ANC leader, when someone in the comments posts an objection that they should be free to show equal respect for both men, they somehow reverse their position and resort to the fatuous “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” argument, belittling Mandela’s contribution and instigating a less than dignified slanging match between other commenters on the thread, before slinking off to their hole unnoticed.

What none of these anonymous cyber-trolls seem to understand (or more likely choose to ignore) is that some young people who grew up with certain celebrities in their lives really do feel a bond with them and are genuinely devastated when they pass away.
It is almost certainly a more profound and sincere loss than that felt by the politicians and pundits who cry crocodile tears for the cameras at the thought of a week of retrospective news specials and biographical documentaries when a head of state dies.
And I’d like to think that they also don’t give enough credit to those same young people, most of whom are perfectly well aware of what a great man Nelson was and what he contributed to the world.

So don’t give them the satisfaction.

Because unless they read every obituary, in every paper in the world, every day of the year and then mourn the loss of every life lost that day, they are just like the rest of us.
Each of us touched by the lives of others in different ways, not always knowing the way in which our lives are affected by those we don’t get a chance to meet but still open to being part of their legacy.

(Much respect and gratitude to Ho for his fabulous “Cyber-troll” cartoon, done at very short notice this afternoon)

 
 

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Social, not working…

The internet is great isn’t it?
All that stuff out in the ether, just there at your fingertips, waiting to be plucked from the stream.
Of course there are people out there too, and you can talk to them, wherever they are, whoever they are.

The astonishing thing about social networks is the way that they’ve made us all so sociable.

Now, I know that’s stating the bleedin’ obvious, but you’d have thought that a pastime that largely involves – for a lot of people – sitting on your own, staring at a computer monitor for hours at a time, would result in a generation (one that I, in all fairness, cannot really include myself in) of pasty-faced, lonely people.

But even from the somewhat cynical perspective of a forty-something, aging hippy such as myself, it’s easy to see the social benefits of sites like Facebook and twitter.
The very fact that I am, in the space of a year, friends with a DJ on Dartmoor, a blogger in Bulgaria, and a Maple syrup producing ex-Marine in Michigan, is testament to the power of the web’s ability to bring us together.

But, just as there are some people that we don’t want to bump into in the high street, there are some others that would be best avoided in the virtual world too.
Not that they’re bad people, it’s just the way these networks, well, work.

If I’m having conversations on two or three different threads at once, I want notifying when someone comments on one.
Unfortunately, that means that I set myself up for falling into a notification trap.

The worst offender in this category is The diner. The diner will post something innocuous like; I’m having lasagne for dinner, how about you?? 
You know what it’s like, you’re not thinking, you’re in fb mode, you comment; Steak and kidney pie.

Too late, you realise!

A minute later you get a notification telling you that some bloke called Phil is having fish and chips.

And a minute after that, you discover that a woman named Jean in Wilmslow is partial to Moroccan couscous.

From then on, you may as well give up, as all you’re going to hear about for the next three hours is the gastronomic preferences of a random collection of folks you didn’t even know existed up until this point.

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Someone’s dinner, this afternoon.  Fascinating.

Friend collectors are another odd one.
Imagine that you’re in a bar, at a party, whatever, and a complete stranger comes up to you and shakes your hand.

Ok, so far, so normal. But then they don’t say anything, just spend the rest of the evening standing nearby, watching what you do and say. And occasionally clearing their throat to let you know they’re still around.
That’d be weird, yes?

So, how come it’s apparently acceptable to send someone a friend request, then stay completely silent, even when asked direct questions, yet think it perfectly normal to poke them every now and then, only to ignore any response from the pokee.
I’m sure these people just get some kick out of the fact their profile says “____ has 1,653 friends.”

I now have a rule, anyone who sends a me a request has a week to actually say something before I delete them.

Trolls are of course the worst of the lot, although they don’t fall into the same category as most other types of irritant. Because even though real life Friend Collectors seem unlikely, there are enough odd people out there to make it at least probable that they exist.

Whereas Trolls can only exist within the anonymous confines of the net.
Given that their entire raison d’etre is to antagonise as many people as possible, they’d have to be terminal masochists to engage in their online antics in the real world, as they’d spend the whole time getting the crap beaten out of them.

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Some Trolls, yesterday.  Little bastards.

For example, imagine this real life scenario, transposed from a post I saw on Facebook during the football Euro championship, (or whatever it’s called, can’t stand football myself) only instead of on the busy public Facebook newsfeed, imagine it’s happening in a packed pub.

Someone stands up, and to nobody in particular, says;
“I hope something like the Hillsborough disaster happens at the England game tonight.”

Ok, you can close your mouth now.

Yes, somebody actually posted that statement.
Now, can you really imagine anybody doing that outside the safe anonymity of a WI-fi connection somewhere?

And that’s without even mentioning the staggering level of fuckwittedness needed to set up a page celebrating the hilarity of children with cancer…beyond belief.

Still, we can all experience the sensation of trolling, without actually doing anything offensive, immoral, or borderline illegal.
Just start a discussion with a few Americans about
a) Politics,
b) Arms control, or
c) Religion,
and you’ll be accused of being a Troll, and worse, in no time at all.

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Having said that, providing you’re lucky enough to start off with a core of anglophile yanks who, although sometimes having as much luck grasping sarcasm and irony as Mr Spock, “get” the Brit sense of humour, you can generally spot the real zealots before they hack your account, find out your address and rappel down your chimney, armed to the teeth, to teach you the error of your whiny liberal ways.

I’ve avoided such a fate thus far, and all my (remaining) American friends are very agreeable, but it’s been touch and go once or twice.

I personally, having come to the phenomenon of the social network rather late in the game, still find it extremely entertaining, and apart from anything else, it is responsible for me taking up blogging.

So if you’ve got any complaints,  you know who to blame…

If you don’t know what you’re complaining about go here.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Blogging, social networking

 

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