iTHINK | Social media and the trolls under the bridge

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Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and took two photos. I walked into a hotel bathroom and took ten selfies.

The times sure have changed. It’s quite amusing how I, a father of two, sometimes catch myself getting my dopamine fix from likes and comments on my online social network.

I’m a communications professional working for one of the more diversified industries and am fully aware of this, but I too am only human — and as certain psychology studies have shown, the greatest motivator for human behavior is not money, sex, or food — but attention. Where do you get your motivation?

At the other end of the social media spectrum are the trolls, who thrive on eliciting negative reactions. Trolling is an online problem with very real-world effects. There have been numerous articles on how trolls have caused mental anguish and endangered lives. Some trolls have even managed to win elections (I’m not going to name which countries, for fear of being trolled).

Trolls are human too, and they thrive on attention. In the cases of professional trolls, they literally feed off your attention and reactions, being paid for every response they generate. It is said that the only way to respond is to not respond ? ?Do not feed the trolls? in Internet parlance, which is absolutely sound advice.

If investigative reports on professional trolls are to be believed, social media has been hijacked by skilled manipulators. This is ironic, since I believe that the original intent of social media platforms was to create a space for authentic, unfiltered content by individuals who simply want a platform to share their personal thoughts and experiences.

So in this space seemingly overtaken by fake news, cyber bullies, and self-aggrandizers, what’s left for those of us who just want to have a bit of fun, and maybe make the world a little bit brighter and better?

I honestly don’t have some scientific strategy for taking them on, and do not have any plans of doing so. But what I am going to do is to not feed the trolls, still post the odd selfie, share good (real) news, do my fact checks, be an encouraging friend, and carry on. And be sure to teach my kids to do the same.

Maybe if there are enough of us who can be good and responsible social media citizens, the trolls will eventually lose relevance and disappear into the void where they belong.

The author is the head of corporate affairs and communications at BPI

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