Worldwide, the horses of the apocalypse have furiously bolted at a flat-out gallop.
Their hooves frantically pounding the ground with a vengeance, leaving behind a trail of victims of warfare, famine and death. Likewise, a notorious army of narcissistic swines ruthlessly oink in the social media space, indiscriminately desecrating online temples of communication; Twitter feeds, Facebook walls, Instagram and YouTube, wreaking untold havoc on these sanctuaries of social connection through a stream of toxic flap-doodle.
I’m not discussing benign trolls, but malign, aggressive and inhumane trolls who maliciously play fast and loose with online social etiquette.
These self-centred social misfits are bent on provoking us with their pithy, inflammatory and often off-tangent hate-filled unsolicited opinions.
Todd Klarke, who calls trolls, ‘digital devils,’ writes, “All a troll wants is to inflict pain, ridicule and humiliate.” Intoxicated by the thrill of trolling, like a blood-thirsty female mosquito, they’re always ready to hack into our flesh, squirt harmful saliva and suck our blood.
Some wimpy trolls are shrinking violets who tend to be as mute as fish in face-to-face engagements. Virtual platforms embolden these baneful individuals to unleash the unrestrainable little devil lurking in their heart. Electronic gadgets are a ‘peekaboo’ through which they peep to upset us.
It’s not easy to decipher their true profile because they tend to hide behind crazy fake accounts. Let me shine a Klieg light on trolling by helping victims of troll appreciate they don’t have an implicit social contract with trolls.
Three weeks ago, one charismatic politician related his ordeal with COVID-19 on a popular social media platform. He shared a detailed personal perspective on the disease. His story garnered 2, 400 likes, 168 shares and 580 comments.
For trolls, this seductive fodder licensed them to eviscerate him with comments, such as; “Lona le a tena,” “Next time make your story short,” “Bana ba bahumi ka maaka,” “Re tshwere nako ya curfew no time for novels.” Deliberate loss of focus by trolls coupled with a burning desire to provoke anger!
Last month I put my head above the parapet by writing a tribute to a smart public figure who enjoys a volatile love-hate relationship with the public. It attracted 1, 600 likes, 157 shares and 3, 600 comments.
Quite underwhelming was a litany of extraneous and patronising comments laced with the most intemperate of tones.
Admittedly, the nine-line teaser might have been a steep linguistic curve for trolls to climb. Without bothering to read the entire article, they went on a rampage, vilifying the writer with comments like, “Ke sone Segerika,” ‘Cut your story short, we don’t owe you time,” “Phakalane kids with barbed wire teeth, please help us,” “Who reads such English ka era ya COVID-19?”A closer look at trolls
Their attitude is a jarring indictment of a pervasive culture that is anaemic to self-development.
It is probative of their intention to shy away from empowering themselves by reading and expanding their vocabulary. For them, the in-person education they’ve received so far is sufficient to last for an eternity.
When they don’t understand something they howl and blame it on the innocent writer. For goodness’ sake trolls, use the gadgets in your hand to shout out your questions to Google Assistant or Siri.
What a shame, when the youth rebel against acquiring knowledge! Lest we lose our head in the clouds, let’s ground ourselves! Twelve years of basic education supplemented with three or more of tertiary schooling is only a floor, not a ceiling. Let’s not get too excited by a degree conferred by a university with a compromised ranking.
I hope this article would precipitate a sea change in attitude and prompt the youth to turn the dimmer-switch in their thirst for knowledge several notches up.
Expressing the immortal value of acquiring knowledge, John Fitzgerald Kennedy shared this instructive tip, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.” Adorn this with the glorious perennial beauty uttered by Benjamin Franklin, “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
How can we deal with trolls? Don’t cringe with fear and fall for the spurious narrative that these vain attention seekers peddle, claiming that they are all-powerful.
Their power lies in our foolhardiness to fall for their baits by stooping to their level. Trolls have a flawed sense of entitlement. By luring us, they demand undeserved validation and ultimately satisfy their craving for visibility.
Let’s starve trolls of their cherished moment of glory by resisting the knee-jerk inclination to haul them over the coals. Winning an argument with a troll is a hard mountain to climb.
We’d have to lick our own elbow first. After ‘losing’ an argument, one patently wounded troll fulminated, “Jaanong o goela eng?”
To motivate us to embrace the practice of ignoring trolls, a 2020 study on Cyberbullying concluded, “Trolls are people with serious sociological… and deep-seated mental issues.” For some, trolling is cathartic therapy.
Rather than seethe with fury, perhaps the smart thing to do is to empathise with trolls. We may learn something from them. A metaphysics writer named Florence Scovel Shinn cautions, “No man is your friend. No man is your enemy. Every man is your teacher.”
May we always marshal the strength to bridle our emotions and occupy the moral high ground.