If you’re new to social media, or been hibernating, you might think of a Troll as the mythical creature from fables such as Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Today’s online Trolls may well of course evoke the same fear as their fictional counterparts – but there’s no kidding about the impact they can have on real lives.

Traditional perception of a Troll

Traditional perception of a Troll

A Troll, if you don’t know, is a ‘person who makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting’ (Oxford English Dictionary). An interesting description, and one that leaves of room for interpretation, as I found out on Saturday evening.

While you were cutting moves on the Saturday night dancefloor, I was recharging my batteries in the house and reflecting on a sumptuous performance at Tannadice in Dundee United’s 4-1 home win against Hearts. If I’d been where I was meant to be, at a Chrimbo party, then I may not have spotted this story unfolding on Twitter:

Around this time the Secret Plumber chipped into the conversation:

Followed by:

After several volleys between the Secret Plumber and tweeple it now stands, as I draft (ever-evolving), like this:

I had a glance but never looked into it too closely. Until more tweets started appearing. At first I observed with intrigue:

Then the focus went from driving ability to personal attack, based on tweets Secret Plumber had at best over-zealously responded to:

Driven Round The Bend
Let’s get one thing straight: I love Twitter. It’s right Twitter is used to engage people; to connect, challenge, communicate, discuss, educate, share, inform and warn. Social media is a wonderful evolution of digital design and can add real value to people’s lives. It certainly has and continues to do so for me.

If someone is driving callously then it’s right that they are either held to account  in the right way or helped to better understand the risks of their driving and the benefits of a change of approach. Of course social media and Twitter especially are often used to express opinion, sometimes vociferously. So, as in this case, if highlighting someone’s driving is the best way to warn people or garn support for your cause, then I support that.

That was my thinking as I typed. Then it got weird, and I started to question my logic:

What I find fascinating is the very public response people have adopted. Yes, the image shared is already in the public domain, but I fail to understand how exposing it further benefits the cause. The only way that image was found, the only way people are adopting confrontational engagement, was through Trolling others’ accounts.

I’d hazard a guess that using the Oxford Dictionary definition of a Troll, that is a person who makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting, could categorise many of us a Troll. It could be argued that Secret Plumber was trolled in the first instance to even kick this whole saga off.

Maintaining discipline, considering the ramifications of actions, impact on others, and promoting informed opinion over malicious intent is always at the heart of my approach to social media. I don’t always get everything right and neither will you.

Should I have blogged this? I’m still unsure. Should someone’s livelihood be threatened by how they react on social media under stress and provocation? Not necessarily. Education is better than retribution, and two wrongs don’t make a right. Of course, neither can disrespectful tweets be condoned.

Digital Delivery
The online life of your brand transcends beyond digital boundaries; brand equity, professional reputation, customer and stakeholder perception are all now influenced by your social media presence.

If, like me, you work in the Public Sector, then the rules are as applicable as in private business. Two-way engagement through digital and ultimately social media should act as mesh woven through and linking delivery of services. Perspective is paramount and organisations’ ability to rapidly connect with and influence that, pivotal.

Our perspective also lies at the heart of perceptions about Trolls. As social media continues to evolve and become popularised, noise seems to be increasing, cohesion withering. What I think is crucially missing in the Oxford Dictionary definition is the word malicious. Whatever your opinion, whatever your approach, just remember, there could be a Troll in all of us.

Think, tweet, sleep. In that order.
Don’t cross the line.

Take it easy

Photo Credit: Gnome Girl! via Compfight cc

2 thoughts on “Crossing The Line: The Troll In All Of Us

  1. Pingback: A Bedlington Terrier, how to tell tales, and ethical issues | weeklyblogclub

  2. I agree that this went too far. I made my comment to indicate that this was really a police matter. And responded in a polite way to the comment directed at me personally. I had initially been alerted to the exchange because of the sexist nature of his comments. I consider everything I tweet will be read by my boss and my mum.
    An interesting blog. But you have just thrown more sustenance to those who take things too far.

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