The Blog

To Troll, or Not to Troll?

Even if the trolls are posting in response to the strange and at times controversial views of Katie Hopkins and others alike, the time to challenge the trolls has come. Because the trolls who provoke and the trolls who respond are no better.

Even if the trolls are posting in response to the strange and at times controversial views of Katie Hopkins and others alike, the time to challenge the trolls has come. Because the trolls who provoke and the trolls who respond are no better.

People worldwide are stressed, tired, unhappy and angry. But in England? We also have a long tradition of the class system. In addition to the "minding our own business" upper class, "ever-struggling to be upper" middle class, and the working class, we now have the benefit class. Keeping the tradition of the class system alive, we should really acknowledge the birth of a new addition - the benefit class. Because that's where many of the arguments start, and that's why professional trolls like Katie Hopkins thrive, off the misery of the working and the benefit classes are disputing about.

And when the working class seems to be worse off than the benefit class, the benefit class is always unhappy, nursing a sense of entitlement. Entitlement to what? From whom? Yet it's the very entitlement that lacks public clarity, and remains the source of much disagreement.

We often forget, that we all have daily troubles, chores and issues to deal with. Whether or not we have children, a job, or a spouse. And a life that technological and medical advances were supposed to make easier. The very life that democracy was supposed to make for us freer and fairer. As a result, our lives have been overloaded with information, stress and pressure to make a decision, from all directions, metaphorically and literally speaking.

The failure of society to resolve our cherished ideals has given rise to symbiotic phenomenon. On the one hand, we have a new breed of controversial columnists, pointing out society's failure. On the other, we have a new, voracious breed of internet trolls who attack these columnists at every opportunity. These trolls are a modern epidemic, that only serves to illustrate how unhappy and scared we are when it comes to dealing with our current and future struggles. And how unhappy we are, as a society, to confront, for instance, the problem of the benefit class, or deal with the problems of any other class and especially of the working class.

Katie Hopkins exemplifies the new breed of columnist. She shares her views honestly; and these views include bemoaning the fact that she struggles more than parents on benefits - or, to put it more succinctly, they flaunt luxury cars, while she walks. She recently tweeted;

"I appear to be the only mum walking kids to school in the monsoon. Splashed by Free School Meal kids in their luxury cars. Funny old world."

Even hard-working Katie Hopkins is unsettled that, compared to people on benefits, she is working harder, and with less luxury, to keep her kids fed.

Yes, there's a chance that this is just another attention-seeking headline, a troll against the easily-angered. But let's hold our horses... is she really alone in her opinion? And, adding a little psychological savviness, could her apparent anger not be masking or projecting a very real fear? Just as the anger of the trolls in response may be masking their own fear at how unsustainable things have become.

If the trolling is in response to Katie Hopkins, the reality is this: even if the trolls think of themselves as having been patronised, angered, or frustrated by a controversial columnist... the trolls are still displaying an anger or fear, residing deep inside themselves, which reflects an inability to cope with the issues.

It's like the old fable: A boss shouts at a man at work; the man comes home, shouts at his wife; the wife shouts at the kids and they go on to behave nastily at school ... and the cycle continues. The anger of trolls is a contagion that serves to perpetuate this chain of violence, even if only emotional, in the most destructive ways.

The solution for the trolls? As always, no need to bottle up the anger. The reaction may be genuine, yet is as destructive to the trolls own life, as to the person they are responding to. Even if the anger is real.

It's clear that we all have issues to deal with, whether paying our bills, being the best parent we can, keeping a dignified public image for ourselves or our class. Given these are problems we all face, how can we protect ourselves against the angry contagion of trolling?

My suggestion is that, next time you read a troll's comment, or decide to post one, stop and do one of the following:

  • Take 10 deep breaths, and try to do something tedious on your long forgotten to-do-list; this will calm you down.
  • Think about why it upsets you personally. Is it because it identifies the weak spots you've been hiding? Remember, the deep issue, the deep problem, the deep fear is yours to own, and within you. You would do well to identify it ASAP.
  • Talk it out in front of the mirror. Yes, talk to yourself. No matter how ridiculous that may sound, it may be time you spoke to yourself. You'll either come up with an amazing solution with regards to what's bottling up within you... or you'll end up laughing your head off.
  • If nothing else works, find a task that needs extreme attention to detail. Sometimes just switching your attention away from the source that caused your anger, away from the troll, will do the job. Even if you need to repeat the process many times.
  • If you genuinely believe there is an issue that deserves your further attention, then find a way to deliver the message to the right ears. This is unlikely to be a trolling comment, but more likely to be a clear message to a relevant organisation.

If, after all this, you still have any desire left to post or respond to the troll... then please, please think about that fable again. Someone has to be big enough to stop the chain of hate. If not, everyone will get hurt, including those dear to you. Emotionally, if not physically.

I would be fascinated to hear any responses you have. In particular, if you have any more suggestions as to how to deal with the desire to troll, then please comment here.

Ps: Someone has to confront this, and perhaps we can begin here?