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Be aware of trolling behavior

Discussion in 'About This Site' started by Forest, Sep 22, 2015.

  1. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Our community has roughly doubled in size over the last 2-3 years. It is truly wonderful to see how our weekly pageviews have grown:

    I've been working on the site almost full time since founding it in 2008, and we depend on Google search traffic to grow. We can be particularly proud of growing even when Google search traffic related to Dr. Sarno has been dropping:
    While Dr. Sarno isn't the only TMS Doctor discussed here, he's by far the most famous, so for us to grow in these circumstances is quite a challenge.

    As we grow, the sociology of our little community (we are still minuscule in internet terms) will necessarily change. Simply put, if there are twice as many people here and they have been here for twice as long, things will begin to feel different.

    One thing that we don't have a problem with but we want to be aware of is called "trolling behavior." The word, "troll," is a piece of internet slang that has been around for a about 20 years. It is best understood by people who participate in large internet communities that have been around for a long time, so the term may be unfamiliar to many of the people reading this (particularly the people who don't post).

    A troll is simply someone who entertains themselves by provoking emotional responses from others or by provoking conflict online communities. Creating discord or frustration is like a prank for them and they entertain themselves by laughing at the pain they cause.

    Who are these trolls? Well, perhaps an interview with a more extreme form of troll may help us understand their psychology. The following video is of a BBC reporter confronting type of online troll who goes to online RIP memorial sites and posts the most offensive things they can think of there:

    Examples of many other trolling attacks by the same man (Darren Burton, aka Nimrod Severn) can be found in the following Daily Mail article (warning, some of the examples are quite offensive):

    Most trolls won't do things quite as hateful as the troll confronted in the video. However, from the interview, and other information presented below, we can see that trolls generally try to provoke an extreme negative reaction in others so that they can laugh at it. It is a form of entertainment for them. Chances are, it gives them a sense of power to be able to get a reaction out of others.


    The following article, from Alternet and Salon.com, does a good job of explaining how Trolls show up on the modern internet. Education is an important part of protecting what is wonderful about our forum and preventing trolls from damaging our culture, so if you care about the forum, I hope you will take a moment to read it and learn a bit about trolling.

    Internet trolls can’t help themselves

    Why does anonymity and an audience bring out the absolute worst in people?
    Lisa Selin Davis, Alternet

    In the year that I wrote for a blog about Brooklyn real estate, I was regularly plagued by “trolls”–online commenters who write inflammatory or derisive things in public forums, hoping to provoke an emotional response. These commenters called me, and one another, everything from stupid to racist, or sometimes stupid racists. And that was just when I posted the menu of a new café.

    The most infamous and offensive of these commenters was a man (we assumed) who called himself “The What.” His remarks ranged from insults to threats. “I know where you live and I’m coming for you and your family,” he once wrote. The intrigue around The What’s identity warranted a cover story in New York magazine. What kind of person would spend so much time, and so much energy, engaging in virtual hate?

    The consensus among sociologists and psychologists who study online behavior is that all kinds of people can become trolls–not just the unwound, the immature or the irate. See your perfectly pleasant work neighbor, furiously typing next to you? He might be trolling an Internet site right now.

    “Most people who troll are people who are just like you and me, but just a bit more intense,” says Olivier Morin, a cultural anthropologist who has written about trolling.

    One website breaks trolls into categories: the hater, the moral crusader, the debunker, the defender. But trolls might not retain those qualities in real life. It’s just that the Internet’s anonymity makes it impossible for them to resist spewing vitriol from the protective cave of cyberspace. Psychologists call it the “disinhibition effect,” in which “the frequency of self-interested unethical behavior increases among anonymous people.” Non-academics refer to it as “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F-wad Theory”: the combination of anonymity and an audience brings out the absolute worst in people.

    “Social psychologists have known for decades that, if we reduce our sense of our own identity–a process called de-individuation–we are less likely to stick to social norms,” wrote Michael Marshall in New Scientist. “The same thing happens with online communication…Psychologically, we are ‘distant’ from the person we’re talking to and less focused on our own identity. As a result we’re more prone to aggressive behavior.”

    Online disinhibition ranges from benign–oversharing of personal information–to toxic, virtual hit-and-runs in which you call writers stupid racists, or in which you write in response to the shootings in Colorado: “What kind of idiot parent brings their 3-month-old to a midnight movie. Morans.” Hey, no one ever said you had to be a good speller to be mean.

    Only a psychotic person, incapable of empathy, or someone perpetually engulfed by rage, would say such things in public. But people feel alone when they’re typing on a computer, even if they’re in a public “place” like a chat room on Facebook or the comments section of an article. MIT professor Sherry Turkle calls this “being alone together”; the Internet causes “emotional dislocation,” so we forget about the together part.

    Anonymous, unethical behavior started way before the Internet, of course. Plato wrote of the ring of Gyges, which bestowed the gift/curse of invisibility, leading men to thieve. Who wouldn’t swipe stuff if he knew he couldn’t get caught? Well, said Plato: no one.

    But we’re not talking about thieving anymore. We’re talking about cyber bullying that leads to teen suicides, and trolls that leave photographs of nooses on tribute pages to those dead teens. “Trolling normalizes abuse, and that’s what’s frightening,” says Morin.

    Online anonymity creates a sense of a culture without consequences. Think of that tween who posted a video on YouTube of his own abuse of a 68-year-old bus monitor. The Internet limitlessly expands the possibilities for unkindness and waywardness and misbehavior (and, yeah, for community-building, too–Internet users raised $700,000 for that bus monitor, and now she’s retiring). Lots of folks who would never step foot in a whorehouse happily watch Internet porn.

    Anonymous comments once embodied the promise of the Internet, the supposed democracy of the place, and their defenders say that privacy is what we must prize the most. But I’m not sure donning an alternate identity, hiding behind a screen, is the same thing as privacy. There is a movement to eradicate, or at least reduce, anonymous commenting in the hopes that it will seal up this space between our lives, online and off. Many sites require readers to log in through social media to comment, so that they are, in theory, linked to their real-life selves.

    Personally, I resist such cross log-ins. I’m not much of a commenter myself, save for when the New York Times covered the controversy at my local food co-op over whether or not to carry six Israeli-made products. And all I said was: Why is this story in the New York Times? (It turns out that a disproportionate number of New York Times employees shop there, and thus were under the mistaken impression that this constituted news.) But I don’t necessarily want all my Facebook friends to read that comment. That was, I hoped, for the Times‘ editorial staff.

    One of the strangest things about the commenters from that Brooklyn blog was that many of them had in-person relationships. They held regular meetups in local bars, attaching a face, if not their real names, to their screen personas. And for a few days after these gatherings, the comments would be less vitriolic, as if the civility of the evening leaked onto the virtual pages of our site.

    Did The What ever attend, skulk in the background and sip brandy while watching the blog devotees socialize? He could have been anyone, of any race or either sex. But he never attached a face to his online name.

    Perhaps, like a lot of people, The What simply wanted to articulate his worldview. You can’t ask why trolls do what they do without asking why people argue in general, and people do that, says Morin, because they want to assert their own rectitude. “They really want to be right, and prove a point,” says Morin. “And the magic of the Internet does the rest.”​

    The following graphic, designed for forums like ours, pretty much sums it up:


    Thanks for taking the time to read all of this! The better we understand trolling, the more quickly we can recognize it and prevent it from taking hold.
  2. IndiMarshall

    IndiMarshall Well known member

    Thanks Forest for this wonderful forum. The knowledge I gained from this forum is immense and I dont think no TMS book and therapists can teach something that fellow members who have healed and are healing teaches.

    Without this forum I would had been all alone in my journey.. but there are some wonderfull ppl helping here .. No wonder we are all Goodists...

    The kind of features this forum has is just brilliant. Some of the forums with high traffic dont even have such user-friendly features. Lets us rock .. tiphata
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
    JanAtheCPA and Scott.Cameron like this.
  3. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Forest,

    I would also like to add, you've formed a wonderful community and I praise you for making it the safe, non judgemental community it is, with a wealth of knowledge and support.

    I've made some wonderful friends during my shortish stay, who've been both supportive and encouraging - making my journey that much easier.

    Keep up the excellent work in making this space a compassionate, loving and supportive one.

    plum and JanAtheCPA like this.
  4. riv44

    riv44 Well known member

    Thank you for addressing this.
  5. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

    An unfortunate reality of the internet age. I'd love to see everyone be aware of Sarno but have my selfish reasons for wanting this forum to remain a hidden treasure!
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  6. David85

    David85 Peer Supporter

    Despite the greater possibility for this type of thing to happen with growth, I have a good feeling this community will remain an encouraging and safe place.

    On a personal level I was happy to see there has been steady growth. Having mostly been away from the community during the last 2-3 years, I think I had been worried that since Dr. Sarno's retirement, the momentum of the TMS diagnosis in the medical world might lose steam, or that resources to support those who suffer from TMS might dwindle. But obviously, with many TMS doctors & therapists continuing his work, as well as the strength of this community as evidenced by your graphs, not to mention the documentary, it's looking to me like it's actually quite the opposite.
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  7. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Fabulous post, Forest. The clip of the troll was very enlightening. Thank you for taking the time to educate us and for your endless labor of love to keep this a safe and encouraging site.
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  8. nowtimecoach

    nowtimecoach Well known member

    Love seeing the stats on the TMS Wiki success. I loved the info on the trolls - it helps me be aware of my own reactions when inflammatory stuff gets thrown out there... I guess its the same as bullying... anonymity can bring out the worst in people!
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  9. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Excellent point about being aware of one's own reactions. I think in essence, that's "mindfull" posting.
    JanAtheCPA and nowtimecoach like this.

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