24 January 2011

Trolls

I've studied, written, and presented about innovation methodologies, making ideas happen, and inspiring positive change for long enough now that I realize there are many out there who are just fine with things the way they are. That's OK.

Change isn't always good.

Progress is.

The definition of progress, however, is usually in the eye of the beholder. Political discourse in this country is often just one huge, heated debate about what progress is and what it is not, what needs change, and what doesn't...and how to pay for it.

And as ugly as these conversations have gotten at times, they are the pinnacle of civility when compared to the the nasty things being written in the blogosphere. And it's not just political discussions. A trending (meaning thousands and thousands of people wrote about it) topic on Twitter just today was making fun of a woman's physical appearance. Two Florida teenagers were charged earlier this month for posting fake nude pictures of a classmate to Facebook because they got mad at her. Comment threads on every news story I've read in the past few months, regardless of the topic, have been filled with some of the most hateful, ignorant, and harmful language I have ever read.

Trolls, it seems, are everywhere. Worse, because they speak with the loudest and most repetitive voices, trolls make it seem that their viewpoint is shared by the masses.

Trolls, you see, don't like rational debate or progress. Trolls crave emotion. Trolls crave reaction. And because it's much easier to generate an emotional response by being the proverbial turd in the punchbowl than actually creating meaningful, positive dialogue, this is how trolls operate. On the Internet, trolls thrive because it is there where one can be completely anonymous. The nastier (and more unfounded) a comment is, the more likely it is the commenter conceals his/her identity.

Luckily, credit union blogs have steered pretty clear of these types of exchanges. There have been exceptions (comments on the Unrealized Losses blog were nasty at times), but for the most part the people who spend time sharing their thoughts about credit unions online have done so because they honestly want to help credit unions succeed. Sure, there are disagreements, but they have almost always been civil.

Still, our blogs are not immune to trolls. I've seen several just in the past two weeks rear their ugly heads. It's disappointing.

The worst thing for me is who is often targeted by trolls. Usually, it's the writers who have spent (volunteered) the most time helping credit unions who become victims. The people who share the most of themselves become the subject of the most ridicule.

It's all part of the game, I suppose.

I've made a point on this site (and many other bloggers I know have done the same) to publish all comments that are submitted by readers, regardless of their content, as long as they aren't SPAM. I plan on sticking to that. Still, I wonder what the point is? I'll move mountains to find an audience for productive debate on credit union issues. But why afford trolls unmitigated entry into adult conversations?

Credit unions were born out of dissent...from people who dared to challenge the way things are. So, challenge things. Challenge ideas. Challenge the people behind them. But as soon as trolls go personal, as soon as debate becomes attack, and as soon as the intent of a comment is not to enhance the conversation, but to incite anger...they don't deserve a forum.

4 comments:

Denise Wymore said...

Warrior,

Now I know what to call these people that disrupt, discount and destroy - all in the name of fear. Trolls.

The person in the audience that will challenge a speaker's idea - not in a healthy debate but rather trying to discredit them.

The anonymouse commenter on a blog that bullies the writer. Trolls.

I had a hater on my blog recently. Mean spirited, ugly and of course a coward - he/she would not reveal their identity.

I replied to their first comment - I trashed their second. I'm not going to defend myself to someone with such little balls.

There, I said it - balls.

Jimmy Marks said...

The minute I saw that Denise had posted, I started looking for the word "balls". And when you pray...

Tim McApine said...

You are right, we've been pretty sheltered in the credit union blog-o-sphere from the trolls, but the Internet is filled with all sorts. The thing with trolls though is they run out of steam, especially when you ignore them.

Haters gonna hate. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/haters-gonna-hate

sunshine said...

What a great way summarize things. Thank goodness for credit union lovers who choose to support our cause, despite the trolls.