(Edited by Amit Gurnani, thank you!)
“The term social experiment are the two magic words that make everything better on the Internet. Whether it is a slip of the keyboard, failed troll, or just plain desperate for attention, typing out it was just a social experiment will makes things all better…”
Last week, SCAD’s Advertising school sent out a series of tweets poking fun at other programs. While the original tweets were more innocent, the replies quickly turned up the volume and it became a tweet war. Then the original tweeter claimed it was all part of a grander social media experiment. Wait, hit the breaks. Social experiment? Where have I heard that before?
Most people who have been on the Internet and chatted in forums have met folks like SCAD’s tweeter. Their tactics are pretty old in social media and they’ve even been given names. The Troll. The Flamer. Here’s their typical mode of operation; go where there is a large gathering of people, deliberately drop some insulting or unpopular remarks, and enjoy the attention it brings them.
Original trolls were derailing forums as old as Usenet, so this isn’t anything new. Today you see them in Youtube comments, Livejournal, the New York Times comment section, and apparently the official Twitter of SCAD Advertising. Any public forum where people can participate and leave comments has had a troll darken it’s door.
It is unfortunate for SCAD that many trolls have used ‘social experiment’ as an excuse before. As the quote above indicates, that is a common excuse used by this class of online denizen.
It’s basically like the kid next door running up, slapping you in the face, running off laughing, and then calling you a spoil sport for not getting the joke. What makes it worse is that SCAD is an ad school in competition with the programs they “experimented” with. That shifts their actions from the “unnecessary” category to the “malicious” category.
But their actions did inadvertently expose another problem we deal with in social media. While trolls are often kids looking for attention online, other trolls can get vicious and cause serious damage. A troll by nature disrupts communication and can ruin the atmosphere of communities, causing people to abandon them.
So how do we handle trolls? Some people argue that ending online anonymity can solve trolling, but many trolls simply do not care whether they are known. The more commonly adopted tactic is simply “Don’t Feed the Trolls”. Ignore them and report them to moderators who can ban them from the community.
The Internet is a wonderful and terrible thing. People can communicate and get together like never before. We are opening up in ways we are struggling to understand and control. But it is important to realize that what you do online has consequences. There are real people behind the screens, and how you act online reflects who you are personally and the brand you represent.
Through their actions, SCAD Advertising has shown us and the rest of the world exactly what they stand for.