Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trolls and saints

Last night Middle Daughter and I were talking about trolls and real-life threats.

What did trolls do before the net? With the net they can be heard, and threaten, and stir up trouble to their slimy hearts’ delight. Without it...

I suppose some would have written poison pen letters, but I don’t think those were ever quite as common as trolls are now. You might find some snarlers in the background, but I don’t remember that many, and I suppose the risks of personal confrontation suppressed the urge.

Did that suppression, by the effect of habit, change the attitudes? And does today’s ease of expression, also by habit, ingrain more deeply the bitterness and venom?

If I’m to guess, I think the net both reveals the flaw and makes it grow. With it, what might have been a minor weed of grump blossoms to a titan arum. Anonymity and distance make it consequence-free, and it’s claimed you can tell a man’s character by what he does when he’s alone.

I’m a layman here, but the received wisdom is that the bulk of the trolls will threaten till dawn but never do anything about their threats. But the net lets them link up with really violent types and shape their vision remotely.

New technologies give us new (or expanded) vices.

Maybe some expanded virtues too. What would some of those be, I wonder? Greater scope for charitable giving, yes. At least the potential for greater knowledge and perhaps a trace of effect of the Grand Tour? True, most people head for the bubble gum instead, but then most aren't trolls either. Except maybe on Facebook

It gives the scope to develop plans more quickly and completely--efficiency and perfection are good things, though not quite fitting in the list of classical virtues.

Am I a better person because I use the web? (My family and I are eating because of it, but that's not the point.) In what ways better, in what ways worse?


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think trolls used to just talk behind people's backs to anyone who would half-listen. And write letters to the editor - which required higher standards of them.

Are we a more dangerous people now? I don't see the increase in crime, but we have not yet begun to study it, either.

james said...

I don't know if we'd see more violence so much as more of it focused on non-neighbors.

Someone said that the truth made the good better and the bad worse. I'm not sure the net qualifies as "truth" but it does spur on some of the vices (sloth, lust, cliquishness, poison speech) and give a little more scope to a virtue or two. Perhaps the greater scope lets us see some of the minor vices as the dangerous things they are.