A few years ago, I wrote a column about the fall of civil discussion online. Social media had peaked in my eyes and turned into a dumpster fire of raging adults going head to head. I am by no means an expert in the field of social media, but I still take part in comment forums. The trolls are as rampant as they've ever been in every crevice of the internet. Nothing comes close to matching the Trump trolls. #TrollingforTrump, if you will.
Back when the primaries kicked off, the trolls found a common hero in Trump. Someone on the outside the norm of the establishment, someone not taken seriously. Someone himself a master at getting reactions from making a single statement. I mean, that's the whole purpose of trolling, isn't it? Get people defensive and engage them to react with real emotions and sincerity.
Through alt-right propaganda sites and troll treehouses such as 4chan and Reddit, they organised, finding a home and purpose. They were going to do whatever they could to elect der leader, Donald John Trump. Why? Many of them didn't know why they joined the fight. It was a social experience where their trolling prowess could go to use.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people who believe in Trump and everything he promises. Yet, there are plenty of people who put trolling before anything else. They ended up playing chicken with the future of the world for some laughs.
I haven't even touched on the Russian troll houses (who get paid and only want to see the US implode). Efforts to try and distort facts and change conversations were obvious for a long time. We know they spread propaganda and misinformation.
Anyone doubting it should look at the country's response to Trump's presidency.
You're online on Facebook or Youtube or CBC. You are visiting a site that has left-leaning followers. In droves, your community of like-minded individuals gets bombarded with pro-Trump messages. Liberal tears, Obama, MAGA, Emails, and other various talking points. Referred to as "brigading", they share social media links, flooding conversations with trolling.
The average person may say to themselves 'Wow, I'm on the outside of things' & think over what the trolls are vomiting. Some may get riled up and bite and the threads fill with distractions and misinformation. Wasting time with someone who doesn't care except for getting the reaction you give them.
Unfortunately, there's no going back. Trolls are now as empowered as ever before, having gotten their guy elected. Dealing with them is a reality of commenting now everywhere we go online. There are a few ways you can ensure that you don't end up sucked down such rabbit holes.
First, pay attention to where you're commenting and when his "supporters" show up. Do they show up all at once or are they scattered throughout the day? What is the content of their messaging? Do they share their opinions and engage in civil conversations, or do they post troll bait? While it's not a sure-fire sign, especially in our globalised world, do their usernames make sense? How many comments have you seen from people with surnames that don't even exist?
Again, there are sincere people who do believe in Trump and hope he delivers on his promises. But there are so many trolls that it is killing conversations. It's not about liberal tears because opposition to Trump is bipartisan. Trump has the
lowest support of any incoming president ever. You'd think that social media would reflect that, but often it doesn't.
The best way to deal with not just Trump trolls, but all trolls, is not engage them. You get into an endless back and forth and you give them the energy and dopamine to continue on another day. And you? You end up wasting your time and energy and ready to quit the internet altogether at the end of the day.
You will be a-ok if you ignore it and realise that you'll hardly ever actually change someone's opinion, troll or not.
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