In the very first post that I wrote for this class, I said, “I’m scared of these things called “trolls.“” After completing the readings for this week, I’ve realized why I have these fears, particularly as a woman. According to an Australian study, 76% of women under the age of 30 experience harassment that ranges from “unwanted contact, trolling, and cyberbullying to sexual harassment and threats of rape and death.” It makes sense then, that one of my primary concerns of putting myself out there online, would be that I would become the target of trolls, especially if I took a stand for social justice issues. Katia Hildebrandt is one such lady who challenged white supremacy and ended up with a “troll army” threatening her. You can hear more her story by checking out her blog post #PrivilegeGate, or, How I Unwittingly Provoked a Troll Army. It’s as scary as the fairytales in which a young girl tries to pass over a bridge guarded by a troll.
Matt Rosza suggests a variety of ways that we can change the discourse of “gendered bigotry against women [that] is widely considered to be “in bounds” by Internet commenters (whether they openly acknowledge it or not).” The final suggestion is that comments must be done by someone who attaches his or her name to the charges and can, thus, be held accountable for them. This aligns with what I wrote about in my blog post about anonymity. Although anonymity and privacy are essential and beneficial in some circumstances, anonymity does allow some users to make comments that they would not normally make in real life. But as John Oliver says, “People say it’s (the internet is) not real life, but it is. And it always has been.”
The internet and social media hold the possibility of social change. What will you do the next time you encounter a troll? Will you head home or cross the bridge?