It occurred to me recently that a lot of my time online is spent responding to the always dreaded Trolls. They live on blogs, and hide in the shadows of news sites, and are forever present. They always attempt to alter peoples views or change the subject of the conversation to suit their agenda. Trolls are also a teaching tool.
After arguing with a troll in a blog, for the better part of a day, something extremely interesting happened. Call it an inspirational flash or a realization, the trolls, the sock puppets, and the shills are having the exact opposite effect they intend. They come from an age of one way communications. Where they broadcast to you, expect you to sit idly by, and assume you believe what you are being told. Where they give you of their version of the facts, and do not want your feedback. This isn’t the way the internet works.
We live in an age where information that is fed to us, can be questioned, discussed, and verified or discounted very quickly. We do not need to go to town hall meetings, write letters and wait two weeks for a response, or spend time in multiple libraries to find an answer. We Google it, we use social media with our friends, we blog, we chat and text, we walk away from lies and deceit, and eventually we end up with the truth. With our almost unlimited access to knowledge, people seem to be using Occam’s Razor, on an instinctive level to find the simplest answer. The rate at which this happens has gone from weeks or months to hours.
On blogs and news sites, we get baited, and we respond. It is human nature to defend your position and your beliefs. What trolls do not understand is, with each response we post, things become more clear and concise in our minds. Each post a troll makes teaches us to spot the straw men, ad hominem attacks, and the misdirection’s more quickly. We watch other people respond to the misinformation and the trolling, and we learn. In essence the trolls are teaching us how to spot those who lie, twist meanings, contradict themselves, and attempt to misdirect.
The internet is a very large place, with 2 billion people online at this point, each one adds to the discussion. Each discussion teaches people. Each response to a troll makes people think things through. Internet trolls are a good thing. We read their posts, we realize that what they are saying is not true or a distortion. We respond, and we learn. In the end their words do not convince us, they have the opposite effect.