Are You an Intellectual Troll? From www.marketwrite.com
For many of us, interacting with people online who are complete strangers to us is a relatively new thing. Those unfamiliar with the early days of the internet are generally equally unfamiliar with netiquette. This was a term coined in 1995 by an Intel employee to give enterprises some guidelines on using the net. Netiquette is an amalgamation of the terms internet and etiquette and describes a set of rules that dictate how you should use the web (give them a read, you’ll see that there are many things that are not new, including trolls).
For example, we all know now that writing everything in caps is SHOUTING.
This came about due to netiquette.
However, I’d like to draw your attention to number 10, which states,
“When someone makes a mistake – whether it’s a spelling error or a spelling flame, a stupid question or an unnecessarily long answer – be kind about it.”
We’ve all come across grammar nazis, those people who appear to spend all of their time trolling for spelling mistakes so that they can put a person down and correct them (sometime accompanied by insults). Despite the fact that many people now frown on grammar nazis and tell them where to get off, there are still plenty around.
Netiquette Rule #10
The netiquette rule #10 goes on to say:
“If you do decide to inform someone of a mistake, point it out politely, and preferably by private email rather than in public […] and never be arrogant or self-righteous about it.”
It’s this final point that I would like to pick up on. Recently, I’ve taken to reading more of the comments left on popular media stories from the big publications. We all know that many of these will attract trolls – you know the kind, the ones that leave deliberately provocative comments in order to garner a reaction.
The first reference to trolls was made in 1992, although it’s likely that the term was used previously to this. Trolls were sometimes known as ‘Flamers’ which was connected to ‘flame wars’ which, in the early internet, was the term applied to an argument which sprung up as a result of internet-based discussion. Trolls carry out their actions purposefully in order to provoke a response and often, their comments don’t reflect their views of the world.
A New Breed
Delving further into the comments sections on various publications, something new has come to my attention.
A new breed of troll has emerged.
These trolls like to spend their time offering up their opinion like it’s the only one in the world and how VERY dare you ever argue with them. Often, their opinion is backed by various links – which are always well-sourced – that serve to prove their point. They never make a spelling mistake and their discourse is often dripping with a sneering academic vocabulary that all but shouts “you people are SO stupid.”
I like to call these people intellectual trolls.
Understand this. These people are not interested in engaging with you, the publication in question, or anyone else. What they are secretly seeking is affirmation of their intellect, although they would never admit it.
Types of Intellectual Troll
All intellectual trolls have one thing in common, their comments always scream “look how clever I am”.
There are some slight variations on the type that you might come across though.
#1: The Pseudo-Intellectual
This type of troll attended university back in 1992, which gave them the beginnings of critical thinking. They dropped out of the course well before the end, as they discovered that they actually already knew more than the lecturers and didn’t in fact need the course.
Since their time at university, they’ve successfully managed to convince themselves that it wasn’t just their teachers, actually, the whole world knows less than they do on any given subject.
The pseudo-intellectual troll is recognized by the number of very long words that they use. Alongside this, you will usually find a lofty explanation of their meaning in the form of an essay. If you pay attention to the language that they use, you can usually take a pretty accurate guess at what they studied.
The pseudo-intellectual troll is the most aggressive as their foray into learning has taught them that they know best. They will argue black is white under the right conditions, and since verbal intercourse with these individuals is frustrating and often quite boring, they will usually win – eventually.
#2: The Student-Intellectual
These young trolls, delighted with their place in the world of adult academia, usually only indulge in their guilty pleasure after a few pints in the student union. Their lack of experience serves to make them just a little under-confident, so dutch courage is necessary to boost their self-belief in the power of their intellect.
Student-intellectuals will seek out comments that are close to what they’re studying at that moment and leave long, drawn-out comments which tend to include terms such as ‘identity construct’. They love learning, but they have nothing to learn from you, thank you very much, as you are bound to have the IQ of a gnat.
These trolls are easier to force into a reasonable argument than any other, as they have not yet become embittered.
#3: The Conspiracy-Intellectual
These trolls have little to no formal education beyond high school and have always used the internet to carry out their own research and further their own education. These trolls are usually characterized by a sneering belief that academia is for ‘sheep’ and they usually believe every single conspiracy theory that might be doing the rounds.
If you dare to challenge the conspiracy-intellectual, they will bombard you with links until you give in and back down. These links are always from some kind of pseudo-scientific study and usually require you to give up work for a week in order to read them. The links are usually accompanied by a long explanation – in insultingly plain terms – in order that the point can be driven home.
Often, you can spot the conspiracy-troll by their use of the word ‘sheeple’.
Common to all of these intellectual trolls is the unswerving belief that they are right and the world is made up of stupid people. They rarely have any respect for anyone and will pompously and regularly correct even their closest friends. They can be extremely patronizing and love it when someone comes along that is grammatically challenged. This is because those that can’t spell, or don’t have the skills to construct an argument in the same manner as the intellectual troll, reinforce the belief that the troll is intellectually superior.
If as a dyslexic person, for example, you approach this troll, expect much glee and a severe dressing down. The intellectual troll loves to jump on mistakes or misinformation in order to put people down. The worse this troll can make you feel about your own shortcomings, the better they will feel about their own level of knowledge.
If you do happen to have an opinion, ask yourself is it really worth it?
You’ll never win an argument with an intellectual troll, you see, you’ll just be bombarded with short essays and endless links. Conspiracy-intellectuals are also over-fond of internet memes, which they appear to believe back up their point in some way.
How to Deal With an Intellectual Troll
Ignore them, don’t engage and don’t feed the troll.
This is as just as difficult with the intellectual troll as it is with the common troll. Intellectual trolls are also deliberately provocative in that they approach every single thread with the idea that everyone populating it is bound to be stupid.
This results in all of their replies being highly patronizing and pretentious.
If you should challenge the intellectual troll, do be prepared for the conversation to become increasingly patronizing and eventually, degenerate into what the troll thinks is clever put-downs. If this doesn’t have the desired effect, then expect the troll to go dormant for a little while whilst they perform further research.
They will then come back to the thread with a reply long enough to compete with Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.It will probably also be just as interesting (not a Proust fan, sorry).
If this should happen, unless you’re looking to become an intellectual troll yourself, then it’s best to back down and leave.
On a Serious Note
Finally, and seriously, take a look at your own online behavior and check out the rules of netiquette. There was a time when we knew how to behave on the internet and sure, there were trolls or flamers, but these were in the minority. Social media has however brought online discussion into the mainstream and there are now many trolls out there that don’t even know that they could be described as such.
Don’t let it be you.
Instead, give people the benefit of the doubt. Get involved with useful discussions if you find yourself being drawn into comment threads. Don’t be tempted to correct the spelling of others and don’t attempt to boost your own self-worth by putting down others – or worse assume that you’re better than anyone else (we all know what happens when we ass-u-me).
If you must post stuff online that relates to your own personal lifestyle, then do. But don’t accuse others of being stupid or sheep because they don’t happen to agree. I see this all the time and sometimes, others that subscribe to the same way of life as the poster will gang up and bully people that have the temerity to disagree.
Don’t be that guy/gal.
We’re all different and that’s something to be celebrated. An intellectual troll might be clever, sure, but does that make them better? No, if anything taking to the net for affirmation means that they have their own issues to deal with.
We Can All Be Trolls
Trolls are not all just young people sitting behind their PC looking to cause trouble. Trolls are anyone that feel the need to put down others, leave snarky remarks, post deliberately provocative comments, correct grammar or attempt to position themselves as superior. It seems to me that intellectual trolls are growing at an alarming rate and if you dare to offer an opinion of your own, they will take issue with it.
I left a comment on something the other day and was met with “we get it, you’re clever. Well done.” It wasn’t a particularly clever comment (nor was it intended to be) and of course the reply was left as a means to put me down. It didn’t work, but it did make me wonder just why people insist on being just plain mean online.
Ask yourself – always – if the way that you’re behaving online is the same way that you would in the comfort of your own home over dinner.
If not, then perhaps it’s time to examine that behavior and adjust it.
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