Best News & Current Affairs Blog (2011 & 2012) and Jamaican Blogger of the Year (2011) at The Jamaica Blog Awards.

Trolling On Twitter : Have We Gone Too Far?


The Urban Dictionary defines “trolling” as “The art of deliberately, cleverly and secretly pissing people off, usually via the internet, using dialogue.” The dictionary goes on to explain specifically what qualifies as “dialogue”. It concludes that one must (a) convince your ‘victim’ that what you’re saying is true, no matter how outrageous and (b) give your ‘victim’ malicious instructions under the guise of help. Yet, something quite different obtains as trolling among many Jamaicans on Twitter. What we call trolling is nothing short of crude, offensive, sexist, derogatory, racist and or homophobic – but the most prominent form of “trolling” that has emerged among Jamaicans is bullying. You are not a troll, you are a bully, and not just any bully, a punk ass cyber bully. Shame on you. There is a fine line between being a troll and a bully. A very, very fine line. Jamaicans, in their natural tendency to OD, have long since crossed that line.

Those who have been following my blog from the start would know how very opposed I am to cyber bullying. I think it is the worst form of bullying, because you can sit behind a computer screen and act tough when in reality you’re probably insecure and pathetic. The question is, how did Jamaicans come to so misunderstand what it means to be a troll? The answer lies in how we view Twitter – our own virtual community, it reminds me of high school, really. Remember the hashtag #IfTwitterWasHighSchool? Yes. It operates like a high school some times. Complete with the jocks, nerds, sluts and bullies. Unfortunately, to ‘fit in’ with a particular crowd in that community, you have to be mean and offensive (the bullies are usually popular in school). Check the follower count of those who are most insulting and crude on Twitter (myself included), these are the people with the most followers. The absolute tragedy is most of the followers are themselves seeking acceptance and so feed the “troll”‘s need for hype and stripes.

I’ve observed that these trolls are surrounded by a circle of people who feed their need for hype – the one who can be most embarrassing or insulting is the one who gets the most ‘stripes’. The mindless drones sit and just wait for the ‘trolls’ to insult someone so they can “run een” and laugh and feed the troll’s need for hype. Take for example a simple request for a follow back, why do you need to be so overtly offensive, in some cases launching personal attacks on the person? It’s obviously to attract attention and entertain the small minded people who already follow you. Here’s where it gets good, the moment you call someone out on it, the run behind “yuh cyaan tek trolling?” Except, that’s not trolling ! That’s being offensive to get stripes. I’m not saying people don’t have a right to decline a request for a follow back, but why do we need to make a public spectacle of embarrassing people? To what end are we doing that?

We have now made public sport of “trolling” someone based on their looks, or some other shallow insignificant thing like what they wore to a party (Yes, I’m talking to all of you who went in on what Nicole wore to that party). As soon as someone noted that it was excessive, I noticed some of the celebrated “trolls” (bullies) running to take cover behind their right to troll, almost as if there was some kind if constitutional right to it. It reminded me of bigots who say hateful things and then hide behind freedom of expression (No. I’m not calling trolls bigots). What’s most irritating to me is most of these trolls who tease people about their looks are themselves visual trolls ie. Yuh ugly…BAD! Where do you get off calling someone ugly? It takes me back to my earlier point about insecure people being those who troll and bullying the most, quit trying to project your troll like appearance on others ! That’s the only thing about it that’s trolling, the fact that you LOOK like a troll, otherwise you are just offensive and a bully. Shut up! I’m sure the so call trolls are already on the defensive, I care 0. Shut up!

So having established that what we’re doing isn’t trolling, here are some tips (advised by the Urban Dictionary) on being a successful troll and not a bully :

Successful Trolling :

– Ensure you aren’t offensive.

– Don’t call yourself a troll when you’re clearly being a bully, that’s just being defensive to cover yourself.

– Ensure there’s some amount of wit to your trolling, don’t just be an ass (remember the definition calls for a troll to do so “cleverly”).

– Don’t troll to get attention, hype and stripes.

– Know when to stop.

Come on kids, don’t be bullies. Troll Responsibly.

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4 responses

  1. négro tu blanc

    Few points of contention with your definition of successful trolling. I think wikipedia’s definition of a troll is more correct, that is ‘someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.’

    The whole point of trolling is to get attention or hype usually from as many people as possible responding to whatever statement you have made. You don’t need to be clever or witty to troll, though it does help. All you are concerned with is the emotional response. Trolls don’t stop, they will be as malicious and hateful as possible until they get the response that they want. You don’t troll responsibly. What you have described is playful pranking.

    That being said I don’t support being purposefully offensive on Twitter, because unlike a more private forum where there might be a certain unspoken culture to which members are expected to adhere to where inflammatory statements are the norm, Twitter is a public medium and therefore the behaviour expected would be the same as in offline life.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm

  2. Good stuff Mr Truth (Y) Some of them need to go back under their bridges for real

    August 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm

  3. I love this Blog! I agree! The Jamaican Twitterverse is generally very negative… perhaps if more of these unproductive bullies had jobs they’d be kinder. What I resent most is the number of “guys” who say horrid things about women because of their weight, attire and overall appearance. It is consistent and lethal.

    August 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

  4. simplex

    I agree with most of the points.
    Trolling when done on twitter, is one of the most aggressive types of trolling you can find. Regardless of nationality. However in terms of aggressiveness in tweets, Jamaican naturally have the upper hand.
    However most Jamaicans who identify themselves as trolls on twitter are the Grammar “Nazis “type. The one that correct your grammatical incorrect tweets or the “Splicers” the ones that slightly edit your tweets than RT the edited version it. To me these are more prevalent than the aggressive crude type you described. although both also are used when bullying a person. for eg. you and your following are ganging up on a person (as is most commonly done) you RT this person and your following picks up and laugh at them.

    August 18, 2012 at 2:23 am

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