Social Media and the Internet 101: Trolls part 1

Trebuchet’s social media guru, Ashley, has the pulse on the constantly-changing world of the Internet. She’ll help you make sense of the latest happenings of the Internet and social media – what you should know and whether you need to get on board. Not only will you sound smart, but you can make keen decisions for your business!

Trolls: Aren’t they the whimsical rubber collector toys with the wispy hair, the ones that sat on the end of your – or your kids’ – eraser pencils? You know what I’m talking about.

While they're whimsical in our minds, on the Internet they're a whole other colorful ball of wax. The internet is stuffed full of different types of people. Different personalities, motivations, and quirks. This is just like the "real world" where different social groups all have cultures that look different from each other. However, due to the Internet's unique characteristics, the cultures that arise online can look very different from their real world counterparts. One of the biggest differences between internet culture and real life culture is the phenomenon of "trolls." For online citizens who have only just heard the term, they probably gathered quickly that the term was not positive. However, what exactly is a troll, and why do people think they're such a pain in the tookus?

What is a Troll?
Trolls, put simply, are participants in internet conversations that disrupt the conversation for others, either intentionally or unintentionally. Whether it's by posting blatantly rude, hateful or inflammatory comments on a YouTube video, or by posting repeatedly in a forum thread without contributing to the original discussion in a meaningful way, or by insulting a blog's author or fellow commenters due to differing opinions, trolls make it difficult for folks with good intentions to have discussions online.

Trolls often make their presence immediately known. For some, just saying something as simple as "You Suck" (and any number of poorly written variations) will give them their kicks. For others, trolling is a more subtle affair. Certain communities, for example, will have topics that can rouse others to anger and ultimately distract from the original topic. For example, a sports blog focusing on the local home team could definitely be distracted by an errant comment saying the pitcher/quarter back/star player was terrible. These might not necessarily read immediately as a troll comment, especially when language like "In my opinion" is used within it. However, the end result will probably be a disruptive fight, which is the end result of a troll "attack".

Not every troll intends to be a troll. Some trolls are simply folks who don't understand the nuances of online conversations. They might be well-intended but ignorant souls looking to participate in a conversation, but are doing so poorly. Yet others might not have the best of intentions, and instead wish to get a stir out of folks they disagree with. There's no question, however, that the most disrupting kind of troll are those who do so as a hobby, and know full well that they're trolling. For those types of trolls, the "art" of finding out exactly what will push the buttons of those they interact with online gives them satisfaction.

Ultimately, any comment that exists to draw attention away from the original post or to stir up trouble can be considered a troll comment.

In our next blog post on Trolls, we'll discuss where they come from, and what the non-troll members of the online world can do about them.

If there's a topic you'd like Ashley to tackle, email her at
Photo above is titled "The Troll Invasion" by Cali4beach via

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