Trolling is part and parcel of any online activity these days; anyone brave enough to live on Twitter, write a blog, or set up a YouTube account has to accept that comments from complete strangers is par for the course. But there is criticism (hopefully constructive!) – and then there is being plain mean and provocative about someone else’s content almost just for the sake of it: aka ‘trolling’.
The main reason people do this, it would seem, is because of the blissful anonymity of hiding behind a computer screen. No one knows who you are, which can free you to release a stream of obscenities, insults, inflammatory opinions and more – sounds pretty liberating, doesn’t it? Not if you’re on the receiving end, of course. But how many of us, who ostensibly think we’re decent human beings, would ever do such a thing?
Redact.dev, a unique software that allows you to scan your social media history and automatically remove any contentious posts, conducted a survey of 3,846social media users, asking if they’ve ever sent, shared, or tagged someone in an unsavory social media post. The survey uncovered that 16% of social media users in Maryland admit to having trolled someone in the past. This compares to a national average of 17%.
And when analyzed across states, this figure was highest in West Virginia, where 27%of social media users admit they’ve shared or sent something undesirable on social media in the past. Comparatively, just 5%of those in Delawareadmit to this.
Internet trolls are infamously known for gaining attention on social media platforms by posting outrageous or inflammatory posts or comments that often have negative implications. Oftentimes it’s said that these trolls cause havoc for the laughs, however, there is a range of activities they engage in that can actually cause harm to others, rather than spark humor – including pranks, harassment, violent threats, and doxing (publishing personal information and data). In fact, given the harm caused by trolling, almost half (48%)of people believe abusive online behavior should be a crime under federal law. And it appears most people think such a crime warrants a ban across all social media platforms – 71% of people think this is an appropriate punishment for internet trolls; while 11% think the punishment should be community service. Ten percent think trolls should have to pay a fine and 8% think they deserve jail time.
Interestingly, it appears trolling is a relatively common occurrence: 1 in 4 people said they know of someone (or they themselves) who has created a fake online profile just for the purpose of trolling. However, reassuringly, 73% of respondents also said they’d if they knew someone who was an internet troll, they’d report them.
Lastly, it seems more people than one may think have been negatively affected by online trolling: 28% of social media users said they’ve personally been the victim of internet trolling.
“Trolling is, essentially, one of the main downsides of social media,” says a spokesperson for Redact.dev. “We should all have the ability to express ourselves however we see fit, but there are always going to be people who don’t agree with us, or who go out of their way to be negative about someone else’s views, or content. The good news is that if this is something you’ve done and now regret, you can erase it from the internet.”