Trolling to another level
I read this recent study on trolling entitled “Short Communication Constructing the Cyber-Troll” and it was most interesting, sometimes fascinating, often alarming. During the last presidential campaign, I had written at least one article about trolls. There was a lot of trolls at work then, but I attributed it to the heat of a political exercise where partisanship is not only imaginative but can be dirtily so. Instead, beyond the campaign, when a new president is usually rewarded with an atmosphere of goodwill, I noticed that the trolling increased in both volume and viciousness. I then realized that the Filipino tendency to overkill was again activated.
Allow me to share the key points of the study about trolling and trolls in quotation. This can help not only identify trolls in our midst but also understand the perverted mechanics that drive them to do what they do.
Trolling is an online antisocial behaviour with negative psychological outcomes.
Current study predicted trolling perpetration from gender and personality.
Trolls are more likely to be male with high levels of trait psychopathy and sadism
Trolls have lower affective empathy, and psychopathy moderates cognitive empathy.
Results have implications for establishing education and prevention programs.
Online trolling is of particular concern due to the harmful negative outcomes its victims experience. The current study sought to explore and extend the personality profile of Internet trolls. After gender was controlled for, psychopathy, sadism, and empathy (affective empathy, cognitive empathy, and social skills) were examined for their predictive utility of trolling behaviour. A sample of 415 participants (36% men, 63% women, 1% other) with a mean age of 23.37 years (SD = 7.19) completed an online questionnaire.
Results showed that men were more likely than women to engage in trolling, and higher levels of trait psychopathy and sadism predicted trolling behaviour.
Lower levels of affective empathy predicted perpetration of trolling, and trait psychopathy moderated the association between cognitive empathy and trolling. Results indicate that when high on trait psychopathy, trolls employ an empathic strategy of predicting and recognising the emotional suffering of their victims, while abstaining from the experience of these negative emotions.
Thus, trolls appear to be master manipulators of both cyber-settings and their victims’ emotions.”
Filipinos can be the most talented and passionate copy-cats. It is but natural that even trolling can be a point of interest for those afflicted with some hidden psychopathic disorder. For one, trolling is a private activity. It allows a sick mind to vent its ugly contents and get away with it – or so they thought and still mostly think. It is particularly attractive to those who are afraid to express in public the fears and insecurities that had long driven them to mute submission or resignation. At last, they can transcend their cowardice and hit back – without fear of punishment.
We have often accused politicians of exploiting poverty, attributing this to their greed for wealth and power. It is, therefore, easy to understand that some parties with their political and economic agenda can also exploit the weaknesses of character to achieve their ends. It matters little to them, the exploiters and exploited, that human suffering is intensified. Well, a slight clarification: it matters to the trolls who, exploited for their perversions, can enjoy the suffering they inflict on others.
Commercial trolling is how Filipinos have taken trolling to another level. Trolls can do their twisted work, get away with hurting others, and then actually earn from it. Our level of poverty makes trolling an easy income source that can be done in Internet cafes or through mobile phones with data connection provided by the exploiter of a politician or partisan. And Filipino imagination has not stopped at recruiting people with psychopathic disorder. Trolls have been utilizing devices to increase the volume of trolling, computers, mobile phones or tablets that multiply the same messages managed by the human trolls.
Technology is a platform like a sharp doubled-edged sword. It is a neutral operating system that does not adhere to a moral value system. As much bad as good can be released with dizzying speed and volume. In fact, terrorism in cyber space is the new focal point of security forces of nations, not just technology companies and products. This is what raised trolling in the Philippines to such high levels, maybe the worst worldwide. Filipino ingenuity, access to technology and modern communication devices, and private income for thrill-seeking can be a deadly combination.
Fortunately, technology and imagination are not exclusive to exploiters and the exploited. The greater world is not sick, is not psychotic, and naturally leans towards what is good. Yes, man makes mistakes or, in the words of the more religiously-inclined, man sins. But I have an issue about man being a sinner because the connotation of calling someone a sinner can paint a distorted picture. Man, in fact, may do more things that are good rather than bad. He or she can be less of a sinner than a good person. That is why there are natural constraints on what is destructive and natural blessings for what are beneficial.
Trolls and trolling are serious mistakes because their aim is to harm and damage other members of society for the hidden agenda of a few. By the very misery they inflict, they will cause a counter reaction because society as a whole will defend its safety and well-being. If technology is used for destructive purposes, then new technology will neutralize the culprit. The pendulum will swing like night and day.
There, in fact, already exists technology that identifies fictitious names and messengers. And there also are the younger generations who insist on fact rather than lies because their very education depends on what they pick up from technology, including social media. While a small percentage of any population will have its criminals and psychopaths, It is only a matter of time that the greater number, the greater good, will demolish what threatens its collective welfare. Only a matter of time.
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