TROLLING may not be that bad after all.

At least that is what a University of the Philippines-based sociologist found in a study that investigated perceptions of the trolling phenomenon among the Filipino youth.

“Trolls, for all their aggression can be considered as ‘rogues’ who test and flout boundaries, as well as ‘cops’ who establish and reinforce limits,” according to Maria Corinna Priscila D. Escartin, in her “Rouge Cops Among Rogues; Trolls and Trolling in Social Networking Sites.”

Trolling had defined as an act of posting disruptive or inflammatory posts.

As Escartin put it, trolling entailed luring others “into pointless and time-consuming discussions online characterized by aggression, success, and disruption often for the purpose of personal amusement.”

She then cited the case of a trolling directed a viral video featuring an interview with Christopher Lao by a news network in 2011, which showed his frustration about his car running in a flooded street in Quezon City.

Netizens were angered when he commented that “he was not informed” that the street was impassable.

Lao’s words garnered backlash from netizens who called him “dumb” and “a moron” in networking sites Facebook and Twitter, Escartin pointed out that some comments were abusive ad bordered on, if not qualified, as bullying.


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She asked that with such posts that range from teasing to harassing, “Could trolling be regarded as nothing more than harmless mischief, attempts at humor and freedom of speech, or is it something much deeper?”

Apart from online deviance, Escartin, however, also looked at trolling as a policing activity.

In her research, she tried to determine how users perceive trolling and how they justified aggressive online behavior.

Trolling, along with cyberbullying were considered as behaviors that require the use of information and communication technologies such as social networking, websites, chat rooms and online for a to transmit information hat re often mischievous and annoying and potentially lead to hurtful remarks.

But trolling, she said, which is regarded as an ”idea of online performance involving disruptive behavior” does cannot necessarily targeting a particular individual but only to get a reaction from the online community.

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(photo credit: Telegraph UK – Fair Use)

So what’s the difference between ‘trolling’ and ‘cyberbullying’?

 

When trolling is intentionally directed to instill distress or fear on a chosen victim, that is already cyberbullying, according to Escartin.

 

In her research, Escartin agreed that online trolling is a specific example of an anti-social or deviant “online behavior” where “the user acts provocatively and violates normative expectations with an online community.”

 

Trolling and cyberbullying   are behaviors that require the use of information and communication technologies such as social networking websites, chat rooms, and online to transmit information that were often “mischievous” and “annoying”, leaving to “hurtful” remarks.

 

However, Escartin cited previous studies that claimed an underlying assumption to the disruptive behavior of trolls.

 

Trolling, which, was often characterized by mimicking and mocking to disrupt dominant institutions actually reflects the “homologous relationships or the commitment of trolls to mainstream culture,” she said.

 

Escartin said there were also suggestions that disruptive behavior characteristic of trolling can be an attempt at “experimenting with identity, having fun, reinforcing a community through verification and fact-checking and criticizing popular discourse.”

 

In this sense, she said that “a troll is someone whose disruptive behavior exposes the ironies of the dominant culture.”

 

Escartin’s study, which was published in the 2015 issue of the Philippine Sociological Review, found that “in ‘trolling,’ the anonymity and temporary identity suspension online prevalent in some forms of computer-mediated communications supports a venue for people to ‘unleash’ certain impulses not appropriate to face-to-face interaction.’

 

To get an insight into the practice, Escartin gathered the experiences of selected youths from ages 15 to 30 who frequently used the Internet and social networking sites.

 

Escartin’s study suggested that ironically, trolling can   serve “as a form of online behavior regulation.”

 

“Trolling allows the testing and reinforcement of boundaries of proper online behavior. When further explored it can reveal the deeper dimensions of social interaction that take place in social networking sites,” she said.

To be Continued

Joel C. Paredes

Joel briefly served government as director-general of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), although he has been a practicing journalist and writer for nearly 37 years. He led a team organized by the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB)  and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that worked on the book entitled “Protecting our Natural Wealth, Enhancing our Natural Pride.”