Trolling as Social Conditioning

Trolling is something that we’re all familiar with, and something that I’ve discussed in the past.  But I’m not sure that I gave the idea of trolling as social conditioning the attention that it deserves.  Trolling is a form of social conditioning, in the same way that people become apathetic to the things in our world that negatively impact us (non-bullied teens who are apathetic about bullying, poor living conditions in certain parts of cities that don’t get any attention anymore, etc.).

To start with social conditioning is when we, as people, are conditioned by social forces to believe, think, or act a certain way.  I think an excellent way to see social conditioning is to start with something we are all familiar with – social conditioning by government.  Governments take actions everyday, often at a detriment to the their citizens, and usually under some guise that it is supposed to benefit its citizens.  An excellent example of this is when governments install cameras on street corners, traffic lights, and sides of buildings to monitor the population.  I think we all recognize that this is something that we don’t actually want to happen – but it does.  And as time goes on and it goes on long enough people become desensitized to it and are conditioned to think of the cameras that watch them on a daily basis as something that is normal and things are the way they are.

Trolling does the same thing.  Trolling has become so common place that people just come to expect it and often times people merely ignore it when it happens.  The viewpoints that are put forth in trolling – fat, ugly, slut, stupid, moron, you suck, suck my c*ck – are all expected in the current day of online media.  Trolling, in a sense, has become normalized.  Because it has become normalized the viewpoints expressed are normalized.  When a woman gets called fat online it’s merely trolling and we go on about our daily lives doing our normal tasks because it’s not out of the ordinary.

Through social conditioning, we as an online culture have been conditioned to expect and accept the trolling that happens on a daily basis.  The more the trolls do it, and get away with it, the more we tell them it’s okay.  Like a child who pushes another child and then doesn’t get chastised for it, they haven’t been punished and they didn’t face any serious ramifications for their actions.  They will continue to see how far they can go and what they can get away with.

This is why it is important for people to report trolling as abusive behavior.  We should make sure that gamers are creating a safe and healthy environment for each other – not calling each other a faggot, queer, slut, bitch, or asking others to perform lewd acts upon us.

As always,
Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist

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