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Trolling and social media conflict
Transcript of Trolling and social media conflict
The term itself is said to stem from a combination of a fishing analogy (trolling: to lure fish with a baited line) and a mythological beast (troll: a character who lives in caves and preys on the innocent) (Kluyeva 2013).
The exact date of the origin of this term in its new contemporary use is unknown, however its early use can be traced to the late 1980’s (Schwartz 2008). What began as a mere nuisance evolved into behaviour that if perceived as offensive, can be punishable under Australian Law. Ross (2012) believes that ‘the problems develop when a minority strays too far from biting wit and into a place that's overly nasty and threatening’.
Trolling and social media conflict
Social media has changed the manner in which we communicate with one another. Fluid circulation of computer mediated communication (CMC) has facilitated aggregation and public exposure to a wealth of user-contributed information and opinions (Cho & Acquisti, 2013). Ideally, collaborating shared meaning and greater common understanding should nurture a democratic digital community.
Unfortunately this vision has become soured. By permitting online users and producers to post and comment anonymously, social media has contributed to the rise in trolling, cyber-bullying and social conflict. Trolls are an online subculture who seek to deliberately incite emotional distress by intentionally violating social norms and provoking outrage, taunting or harassing individuals through their behaviour and commentary (Doyle et al. 2014).
Social Media and Social Conflict
Social Media and Social Change
Away from the negativity of trolling, social media may also be used to enact positive social conflict resolve. Empowering ‘virtual communities’ (statistically equivalent to a continent) through the use of social media and internet, can drive social change using positive impact in conflict areas (Madzema-Bosha 2013).
Consequently, social media has promoted communication between ethnic groups the world over that would not, otherwise have communicated with one another. Through open channels and new media tools, messages of peace, tolerance and mutual understanding are generated having helped transform societies and even governments. Perceptions, opinions and attitudes have been influenced through sharing eye-witness accounts of civil unrest, violation of human rights etc. via the collaborative technique of ‘crowdsourcing’, thus eliminating the importance of geographical propinquity. Complementing social media with action taken amongst community level peers may carry more sway that lobbying upwards to national and international levels (Mancini and O’Reilly 2013).
Positive + Negative Uses of Social Media; Not for Profit Organisations
With the number of individuals using social media steadily increasing day by day, so too does the opportunity to raise awareness for the causes that so desperately require attention. Despite the existence of trolling, and a number of tragedies stemming from on online bullying (known as 'Cyber Bullying') social media is now being used as a positive tool, with special initiatives in place to bring together victims of Cyber Bullying, and offer them support in an online forum.
The Cybersmile Foundation, an award winning anti bullying & not for profit organisation aims to educate and promote positivity online. Created by the parents of children who had experienced Cyber bullying firsthand, Cybersmile have stated; 'Our mission is a simple one; we believe that everyone should be able to enjoy being part of the new connected online world. Regular and productive use of the internet has become essential to a healthy social and personal development' (Cybersmile 2014) . Using various social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to promote their cause, Cybersmile are one of a number of anti bullying organisations using social media in a positive way, to promote awareness and educate those who have previously been unaware of the detrimental affects of Cyber bullying.
Tragedy from Trolling
In recent years trolling is not just classified as harmless words said from behind a keyboard; it is in fact starting to become a very serious problem (Law Report 2014). Trolling has become so severe that it is causing deaths in our community.
One of the most public ones in recent times is the heart breaking death of Charlotte Dawson early 2014. Charlotte was in the public eye and had a public battle with trolls, it got to the point were she was confronting some of them (Herald Sun 2012). This did not deter the trolls and in the end Charlotte could not ignore what they were saying to her and took her own life (O’Brien & Ralston 2014). Charlotte was not the first tragedy from Internet trolls and will not be the last with many teenagers struggling with trolls everyday.
“While we cannot protect youth from all forms of meanness and cruelty or stop teens from getting hurt when they negotiate social relations, we can certainly make a concerted effort to empower youth, to strengthen their resilience, and to help recognize when they are hurting” (boyd 2014, p. 152).
Support needs to be given to anyone who is being affected by social media trolling, so there does not continue to be such tragedies from trolling.
By Adriana Nicholls, Frank Maiuolo, Bonnie Oliver and Georgina Williams
The emergence of trolling coincides with advances in Internet technology and social media. Klyueva (2013) defines a troll as ‘a CMC user who constructs the identity of a person wishing sincerely to be part of an online community, but whose real intentions are to disrupt normal discussion for the purposes of their own amusement’ (p. 933).
In 2008 the act of trolling was given a character face, or what is now known as a ‘meme’. “Trollface” was drawn with a grin that is meant to represent the mischief undertaken by trolls (Mercer 2014).
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Boyd, D 2014, 'Bullying: Is the Media Amplifying Meanness and Cruelty?', in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, Yale University Press, New Haven, USA, pp 128-52.
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Cho, D & Acquisti, A 2013, ‘The More Social Cues, The Less Trolling? : An Empirical Study of Online Commenting Behaviour’, H. John Heinz III College, Carnegie Mellon University, 3 June 2013, <http://weis2013.econinfosec.org/papers/ChoWEIS2013.pdf>.
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Madzima-Bosha, T 2013, Harnessing the power of social media for conflict prevention, Reliefweb, viewed 20 December 2014, < http://reliefweb.int/report/world/harnessing-power-social-media-conflict-prevention>.
McCosker, A 2014, ‘Digital Citizenship 3 – Trolling and Social Media’, Trolling as provocation: YouTube’s agonistic publics, Learning materials on Blackboard, Swinburne University Online, 5 January 2015, viewed 23 December 2014.
Mancini, F & O'Reilly, M 2013, ‘New technology and the prevention of violence and conflict’, Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, vol. 2, no. 3, pp.55, Swinburne University Online.
Mercer, A 2014, ‘Trollface / Coolface / Problem?’, Know Your Meme, viewed 20 December 2014, <http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/trollface-coolface-problem>.
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O’Brien, N & Ralston, N 2014, Charlotte Dawson found dead, Sydney Morning Herald 22 February, Viewed 19 December 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/charlotte-dawson-found-dead-20140222-338j6.html>.
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Sociologist Max Weber saw every society divided into groups that shared similar lifestyles and outlooks, resulting in a three-component theory of stratification listing social difference as being determined by class, status, and power (Boundless 2014). Weber described power “as the ability to impose one’s will on another, even when the other objects” (O’Campo & Dunn 2012, p.163). Social conflict may arise from the uneven distribution of power and social differences, summarised within conflict theory.
Moffitt (2014) views society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and social change, both may impact the transformation of a community. Further to community constitution, Wellman (cited in Saipera 2012, p.197) opines it is how people relate to each other that has broader implications for society. Social conflict may be temporary, persistent or deliberately generated by ‘trolls’ (Chesher 2103), who are regarded as the constitutive outside of online communities and political discussion. Digital citizenship is defined as ‘the norms of behaviour with regards to technology use’ (Ribble et al. 2004, p.7), which sometimes takes aim at problematic or aberrant forms of participation (digizen.org cited in McCosker 2014).
The clout of social media may therefore, be used to cause or help the cause of social conflict.
boyd (2014, p.138) and Alice Marwick define ‘drama’, a term used by teenagers, as "performative, interpersonal conflict that takes place in front of an active, engaged audience, often on social media." For some, creating conflict and inciting drama is a source of entertainment, a means to relieve boredom meaning that the line between drama as entertainment and drama as a hurtful activity has become blurred (p.148).
Bullying, trolling, hating and flaming have become widely recognised phenomena of online interaction and social media conflict. Evaluating what behavioural strategies could be employed to deal with these potential disruptions to interpersonal relationships, Lee (2005, p.388) defines three categories. A competitive-dominating strategy consists of aggressing, defending self, demanding and persuading. A cooperative-integrating strategy includes compromising, apologising, mediation and problem solving. An avoiding strategy consists of avoiding the issue and the person, giving in, joking and hiding disagreements.
O’Campo, P & Dunn, JR 2012, Rethinking Social Epidemiology: Towards a Science of Change, Springer, Google Books.
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This proliferation of technologies has availed more information to more people across more communities. In turn, this has increased the likelihood of a response towards social conflict by empowering local actors directly affected to enact action. These are facets of digital citizenship at its best, however the warnings of oversharing should be heeded as their may always be an undesirable lurking.
Are trolls a product of society seeking impact through social media conflict or a product of social media impacting conflict on society?