To the trolls in our lives, you know who you are

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It’s a lesson we often hear with the nature of our generation. We’re connected to the internet in ways that no other generation has been before us and every day, technology improves in ways that connect us even more.

The internet can be used for bad and good, that’s what our parents, teachers, advisors and leaders all tell us. I’m not going to go in a rant about pornography or the hazards of online shopping, I’m talking about our usage of the internet. Not what we post, but how we react to others’ posts. Let’s talk about trolls.

Everyone knows what trolls are. They’re the ugly things that hide under bridges or wander around the girl’s bathroom at Hogwarts, right? No, in reality they’re the people that comment on every Facebook post to tell others why their friends are wrong. Sometimes we call the nicer ones Grammar Nazis, other times we label them as A-holes and leave it at that.

Are they still ugly though? Insert cliche here: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

I have yet to say whether or not internet trolls are evil, neither have I said they are good. In fact, I’d put them in a camp of their own — annoying but potentially beneficial. Here in the Statesman office, we talk often of the comments our readers put on our website or on our Facebook posts. We love reading the comments! We especially love seeing our favorite trolls post because they bring us entertainment and more viewers.

Sometimes we get trolled by “grammar nazis” and either we see people who don’t know AP (Associated Press) Style, or we do a facepalm because we did miss something. We’re human, but we’re also aspiring to be as professional journalists as we can be. We take those comments seriously and try to improve.

Other times, the comments are not directed at the grammar or style of the article, instead the trolls are expressing their beliefs and views. That’s beautiful, right? People freely expressing their views is a wonderful thing, until they attack a person or organization for their opinions. That’s when I personally imagine these people as one of those creepy troll toys from the 90’s. Sorry, but not sorry.

I will forever advocate for the right to free expression, and I will never stop a person from saying what’s on their mind. But I do believe in being a decent human being. Maybe that’s why so many websites require us to verify that we are indeed human. Maybe these websites want us to be decent people and be respectful to each other.

The only time I allow a troll to really get to me is when I know they didn’t read anything more than the headline or the sentence-and-a-half that appears on Facebook. That is called intentional ignorance, and ignorance is not bliss. But that’s just my opinion.

There is a light and a benefit to trolls, especially from a standpoint of a media group — the more times they comment and anger other people, the more people will read our articles and get their friends to read. Free advertising is fantastic. I guess then I should say thank you not just to everyone who shares and comments in a positive way on our posts, but the same amount of gratitude goes to all the trolls out there. Thanks for the laughs, and the publicity.

I’m excited to see other people’s opinion on trolls. Comment, share, email or Tweet at will. No robot verification needed here.

Richard enjoys throwing his opinion out there, even when it’s a bit annoying. He’s a basic white guy who found out his Patronus is a fox within minutes of receiving the email.

richard.poll@aggiemail.usu.edu

@Richard_Poll