Subculture – The Art of Trolling

“The art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off via the internet, using dialogue.”

When people are given the opportunity to obscure their identity and essentially not have consequences for the actions they take, they are able to disrupt social norms by taking on aberrant personalities from their usual selves. They become motivated to provoke a response from the victim by creatively manipulating conversations to deceive and truly make them believe that what they are saying is completely factual, no matter how outrageous. Internet trolls have become a subculture of their own and have developed distinctive yet devious personalities as well as common languages that can only be initiated by a troll and only a troll can win. Many people who identify themselves as trolls have dwelled in internet forums, such as 4chan and comport, in a way to amass the maximum amount of “lulz” for personal amusement or the amusement of their associated group. There are spectrums of trolls with different personalities, some that incite innovative, intelligent, and intriguing techniques of trolling, while others that troll for the simple expression of delight.

           So let’s start with a little brief history of trolls. In the early days of the Internet, a troll would be anyone who purposely was disruptive or annoying online. Behind a screen, there was anonymity to the users, where there were no consequences for their actions. In the 2000’s, as the Internet became a household thing, online forums and discussions began to develop. 4chan’s infamous /b board became the birthplace for many trolls. An anonymous   image/discussion board in which there are essentially “no rules”, but still under moderation for illegal content, which may lead to bans.
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From here, trolls started emerge from under the 4chan /b-ridge (see what I did there?), and started moving onto other sites, such as 9gag and Tumblr. Trolls spread like wildfire. Nowadays, trolls lurk everywhere, from Facebook, Twitter, and especially YouTube comments.

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        There are many creations of trolls, such as lolcat which are pictures of cats with text that is idiosyncratic and grammatically incorrect, or Pedobear, a cartoon bear that mocks users that show interest in children. Trolls often use this to irritate people for the “lulz.”

What the trolling community values more than anything is the lulz. Lulz are essentially something pointless that brings comedic value to the individual. As stated before this often comes from sarcastic humor, pokes fun at a person, or can also come in the form of satire.The label of lulz stem from the acronym LOL otherwise know as laugh out loud. Without lulz there is no method behind the madness that is trolling.

For many of these trolls, they find satisfaction through the fact they cannot stand up for themselves in real life. In a sense, observers can see the Internet as the great equalizer because trolling does not require physicality, but instead value wits. This opens the opportunity for everyone to stand up for themselves via the Internet and earn satisfaction through pissing people off to continue to gain lulz. But what makes the “lulz” worth it? Does it leave them with a feeling of self-gratification? Or are they really just assholes who enjoy seeing others agony?

According to an 18 year-old student and troll (who asked to remain anonymous), “trolling gets me some attention. I’ve never been the cool kid at school. They always knew me as the guy who tried to hurt himself; I know they pity me. But trolling gets me some light. Some people find it annoying, but a lot of people find it funny.” Fitting with the community is one desire for the “lulz.” He said, “If you’re not bugged by it, you’re in on it.”

“Do you make friends with other trolls? Do you collaborate with one another to plan to raise hell?”

        “I know some people do, but not me.”

        “So how do you feel like you belong? Aren’t you just being hated on?”

        “I like getting reactions from people. I know some people laugh. And also it’s really cool when other trolls join in on the fun and we poke at things together. Even if I don’t really know them, at least I know someone is on my side.”

“So you troll because people will think you’re funny?”

“Yeah, it’s really become a part of my life. I’m a TA for Pre-Cal, and here are some of the papers I graded. I know people will laugh at my comments, so it’s worth the trouble.”

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Obviously, it is for pure entertainment as well. A De Anza student who also asked to remain anonymous, said “it’s fun to piss people off. It’s kinda like when I was young, I always did that ‘I’m not touching you’ thing to my sister. It was always funny until she would tell my mom or hit me.” Trolling is exactly that, pleasure in another’s annoyed or angry reaction, except for that there is no mom to monitor you or sister to punch you in the face.

“I believe annoying people is an art form. It’s a lot harder than it seems. You gotta know what pushes someone’s buttons, or else won’t be fun.”

“So how do you choose your victims?”

“It’s usually the people who bite. People will reply to your comments or you can comment back at them. If they reply, they probably are irritated. That’s how it all starts. You just keeping going to see how far they’ll go until they break.”

“What do you mean by break?”

“I like to try to work with people and see how they reason with my absurd behavior. When they start going saying things like, “Fuck you, asshole,” or “Get a fucking life!” That’s when you know you’ve got them.”

“And from there do you just keep trolling?”

“Yeah, you just keep going to see how far you can push them. They can just close the window at anytime, it’s not like they have to fight back, but they choose to. That’s what’s so fun about trolling.”

What we can tell from these interviews is that in the realm of the online community, the self-condoning trolls are able to mask their true selves and take on any personality they wish to choose. They do not have physical limitations or have to face the physical obstacles such as confrontation present in the real world.

When asked about what trolling feels like when you are successful in an online interview conducted by billions-and-billions, a troll who goes by Paulie Socash said, “Feels good, man.  Probably a lot like breaking a news story that exposes some idiot politician or public figure who groped his masseuse.  You are drawing attention to some other person’s failings.  For me the goal isn’t the individual, though, it is the overall public reaction.  It’s about controlling the outcome and the presentation of an event.”

        The reaction is what is important in trolling. Paulie Socash offers a slightly more cynical perspective in what he conceives as trolling, providing justification in how trolling is different from bullying. “Because it is online, you are consenting to everything you can and might see.” Paulie Socash says, “It’s fair game. All the internet is fair game.” It’s fair because you aren’t being held against your will, and can walk away from the situation at anytime. You do not have to reply or try to deal with other people’s comments. “It may be just for the lulz, but nearly every self-identified troll I have ever interacted with has certain tendencies (and limits) that are part of their “real” persona.”

The subculture is quite vast. There are sub-subcultures within trolls. The lingo and goals for each troll is very different. They all look for different things and only eat certain prey. They have different tools in which they attack, such as memes and copy pasta or just use different tactics to piss people off.  Here are just some of the types of trolls you’ll encounter.

 1.  The Grammar Nazi- Grammar Nazis correct any grammatical error on posts and do not regard what the post is actually about. They commonly attack the misuse of there, their, and they’re.

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2. The Screamer- THE SCREAMER HAS THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON ON AT ALL TIMES. PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE ANGRY BECAUSE OF THIS, EVEN IF THEY ARE JUST DOING TO BUG YOU.funny-caps-lock-on-quote.jpg

3. The Crier- Criers take matters up the butt and make big fusses about anything and everything. They act as if your post has offended them, even for the little reasons.

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4. The Peacemaker- The peacemaker is the troll who will but into any debate and say something like, “C’mon guys, there’s only once race; the human race!” or “What would Jesus do?”images

5. Mr. Know-It-All- He is never wrong. Ever. He seems to know more than you about everything, even when he doesn’t. He’ll keep trying to prove his is right, even if he isn’t. He is a very persistent little bastard.e3e332bd14423f0921236f46d42dc33092ec8360fecfd0829b99aed7259f73de.jpg

6. The Retroactive Stalker- This guy goes through your old history and posts and tries to embarrass you in an effort to discredit your claims. He will often post links to old things you have said or show old MySpace selfies that you aren’t too proud of.

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7. The Hater- The hater just hates on everything. They say the most inappropriate, vile things, especially on touchy topics like race, sex, and religion.
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8. The Spoiler- This asshole spoils movies or shows or books or any form of media on posts.

For example:

        Me: I’m so excited to watch The Walking Dead tonight!

        Spoiler: Too bad Rick kills Shawn before he fully becomes a zombie!

        Me: -___-

9. The Flooder: The flooder just posts irrelevant comments such as LOL, HAHAHAHA, OMG OMG OMG, multiple times to create internet traffic…

These are just some of the types of trolls out there. They all have different personalities and ways of besiegement. Although what they post might all differ, all trolls have the commonality of desiring the lulz. Most trolls do not care about whom they have offended as they believe the Internet is the battlefield. Trolls have a lack of integrity, which makes them deceive any bystander. The desire for lulz is strictly for their entertainment, which makes trolls seem like lifeless a-holes.

The trolling community is stereotypically depicted and connotatively labeled as internet nerds. Such as unattractive acne covered males or fedora tipping jokers. In reality, we as a race of human beings are the trolls. There is no escaping the fact that anyone with a sense of sarcasm can potentially be a troll. The more relatable to past or current global events can in many cases make the joke funnier. This means the realm of trolling is expanded to me, you, your mom, or even your siblings. The beauty of the troll lifestyle is that is not defined by an image, they are anonymous, and its that sense of anonymity that should define the trolling community.

There’s a common fashion in trolls is they like to remain anonymous, whether it was the interviews or even online where they lurk. Is it to save them from getting punched in the face? Possibly, but also because it’s not something they’re always proud of. Trolling is like picking your nose, peeing in the shower, or watching porn. We all do it, but we don’t ever admit to it because of the opinions and dirty looks we would get.  Anonymity allows for the unpopular, radical things to be put out there (whether the user believes them or not). It creates debate and chatter, without having to be the talk of the town. And for the online trolls who just love pissing people off, with anonymously baiting victims online, there are no real consequences. The worst thing that could happen is a ban, but they could make another account and they’ll be back to continue havoc.

The key to trolling is in how well trolls are able to manipulate language. Textual styles  in which these trolls choose to pursue depends on who, where, and how their trolling. But in essence, the trolls heavily rely on the misconception of the recipient to invoke an emotional response. For example, the popular trolling scheme of deleting System32 in which inexperienced users are tricked into deleting the Windows system directory that is essential for the computer operating system to function. The troll would mimic an employee of microsoft or someone who is notably tech-savvy and provide plenty of pseudo-reports about the “dangers” of the system32 files which seem immensely  convincing to the newb eye. The criteria of successful trolling is fulfilled once the flabbergasted victims respond with bewilderment or anger.
This may potentially even lead on to group trolling in which several trolls participant in the deception of the victim. Other trolls may contribute by also sarcastically providing false information in which they also “deleted” their system32 files and achieved faster speeds, further increasing the convincing factor of the scheme. Highly troublesome to the victim yes, but outrageously hilarious for the trolls.

At the end of the day, the reason why people troll, is simply for the lulz. This subculture establishes what they consider as good taste among their community of trolls through the use of deceptive advice, disruption of normality, and generally uncivil behavior, and with the power of anonymity, one is able to continue with unjust behaviors without consequence. People who are not able to identify deception or sarcasm and people who “feed the trolls” potentially further suffer the wrath of an internet troll. Some may consider, what trolls do as exceedingly offensive, exceptionally deceptive, or extraordinarily amusing. One rule of thumb is not take the internet too seriously, and to not be overly earnest in a public forum where trolls may lurk. Only those who choose to be trolled, can be trolled.  Everyone has the ability to be a troll, and everyone can add a little humor in their life. Understanding the art of trolling can make you a much more (insert creative adjective here) citizen of the internet.

 Sources:
reddit.com
4chan.org
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/jul/24/internet-anonymity-trolling-tim-adams
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/what-an-academic-who-wrote-her-dissertation-on-trolls-thinks-of-violentacrez/263631/
http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2011/09/interview-with-a-troll/
http://billions-and-billions.com/2012/05/28/interview-with-a-troll/
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/delete-system32

Spectatorship, Power & Knowledge

In today’s society, there are two ways of looking at the media around us. There is the dominant gaze and the oppositional gaze. The dominant gaze is basically something that is seen as the social norm in society and which has been implemented into our brains by the media. Examples of a predominant view in society include women’s sexuality, hetero and homosexual couples, social class (wealth), hierarchy of power, and so forth. However, the oppositional gaze perceives a message that is not necessarily seen in mainstream media. Meaning that it challenges what is considered the “norm” or “stereotype” and makes people question the meaning behind the visuals being shown. Unaware of the gazes in our modernity, we may not always stop to consider the consequences. As stated, “In modernity, the gaze is constituted through a relationship of subjects defined within and through the discourses of institutions” (Sturken & Cartwright, pg. 104). But more than anything else, the images we look at influence our self-identity and inform our perception of the world. With that being said, a popular gaze that we are taking notice of in our culture is love and attachment.

Bruno Mars – Just the Way You Are

Upon listening to “Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars”, you will soon notice the narrative of the song isn’t about a relationship, but rather a story Bruno’s infatuation with a woman who is lyrically represented as his perception of perfection. In the main chorus, “When I see your face … just the way you are” shows the Bruno’s fascination with her. He also implies that even with all the flaws she might have, her imperfections are what makes her perfect. Everyone’s perception of love can be influenced. For example, to a stranger the girl may look nowhere near perfect because her appearance may insinuate tackiness, or her personality may seem dull. But in the eyes of someone fixated with affection, she appear flawless due to their notion of a perfect being. It’s a situation which Bruno tries to tell in these lyrics. In the lines, “…her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shining her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her tryin’ she’s so beautiful…” is basically professing his adoration for this girl which successfully conveys his overall message that this girl is amazing just the way she is.

Disclosure – Latch
The thrill, desperation, and the obsession.
Another take on the theme of attachment is seen in the song, “Latch by Disclosure”.  Latch focuses on the thrill, the desperation, and then to the achievement of love. The song begins with his desire for her and what she makes him feel. He acts if he has an empty void in him that needs to be occupied. In the line “You, you enchant me even when you’re not around” emphasizes the influence she has on him and that his actions feel controlled by her like a spell.  His desires are further portrayed in the bridge such as “I feel…”, “I wanna…”, “I think…”, “Could I…” which represent his desperation. He’s asking her and confessing his feelings. The main chorus of the song shows him seizing his opportunity to “latch” onto her, emphasizing that he has become hooked, encaptured, and enamored. He is baffled by how much he has fallen for her, but he senses that there is a possibility of not receiving reciprocity of affection as the bridge is repeated. The song ends with the  repetition of the chorus once again to show that his affection is relentless, maybe even against her will/consent because of his certainty and that he has gotten her “shackled in my embrace” and that he “won’t let go” of her.

Ne-Yo – Because of you

Moving to the other side of the spectrum, Ne-Yo’s “Because of You” focuses more on the negative things that happens because of attachment. The song starts out with him enjoying his time with his girl. He then is introduced to another female and quickly becomes attracted to her, and later cheats on his girl. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but can’t help it stating “baby you have become my addiction” showing his attachment to the new girl. This attachment quickly worsens to addiction as he simply can’t get enough of her, shown when he replies to her phone call and leaving to see her at the pool. He also states “she’s the sweetest drug” showing his addictions towards her, comparing her to drugs, a common substance people get addicted to. All the while he is still attached to his own girl, as he lives with her, comes back home to her, and still has sex with her. His attachment is easily shown at the end when he is having sex. While he has sex each girl’s faces are constantly replacing each other showing his attachment as he is thinking about one while doing the other. This goes against the dominant view of attachment to be a loving commitment between two people. Ne-Yo went against the dominant view as he wasn’t committed to his own girl, and is juggling two people at the same time. While subtle Ne-Yo is also addicted to sex, which influenced his decision to later cheat. This videos presents a common lifestyle that happens, with addiction and cheat, that the media tries to cover with its own views.

Eminem ft. Rihanna – Love The Way You Lie

The music video for the song “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem featuring Rihanna focuses on a very dark, abusive view of attachment. The video opens with the woman in the relationship, waking up to find a name and phone number on her significant other’s hand. Seeing the number initiates a full blown physical fight between the couple. After the fight scene is over, the woman is shown leaving the man, only to be pulled back. The lyrics in the song that sync with this scene specifically say, “ ‘Wait! Where you going?’ / ‘I’m leaving you’ / ‘No you ain’t. Come back.’ ” As if the dialogue were happening in the scene. And then the lyrics follow with “we’re running right back, here we go again.” This implies that this particular scenario has happened more than a few times, which is where the attachment idea shows up first. After the fight, we see the couple pretty graphically making out. One might perceive that the couple are attracted to each other because they are attached to the sexual pleasure of the relationship. Obviously from these scenes, it’s simple to tell that this relationship is extremely dysfunctional, the audience sees the couple at their best and worst, yet one can almost feel the same attachment and obligation to stay in the relationship. Also in the video, one of the first things we see is woman holding her palms open and holding/playing with fire. This suggests that she feels attached to this relationship for the thrill,  the heat, and even the danger, as the man represents the fire. In the video, we see that the man is the dominant figure in the relationship but the chorus states that the woman loves the way the man lies and in some ways this suggests that she enjoys the pain and abuse.

Understanding just how influential the gazes are, it’s important to first understand the theory of spectatorship and what it truly means to look and understand the correlation with the variations of media. After examining both dominant and oppositional gazes through the sample videos shown above, we cannot simply deem them as positive or negative, or even bias to certain criterias, but rather to comprehend the overall meaning behind it. By understanding the theories of spectatorship, “we can form our own identity, not just blindly conform to whatever it is we are being shown… We can now look through the image instead of just reflecting it into our subculture” (Sturken & Cartwright). As a subculture [a group of people who articulate their rejection of [dominant] norms or dominant hegemony through dress, music, and lifestyle] we must be able to change the status quo by removing the limitations, stereotypes and preconceived notions on those in the media and unify them instead.

The Mass Media & the Public Sphere

The Mass Media & the Public Sphere

                Every year over 100 million people tune into the annual championship game of the national football league, where the two highest level professional football teams of the season battle each other in hopes of attaining the super bowl trophy. Many people even consider this day as a national holiday due the event’s ability to unite family and friends together   to celebrate the “Big Game”. Many people who typically aren’t even football fans still gather and watch the game at their homes, hosting Super Bowl parties and viewing the game on large home televisions. Not only is Super Bowl Sunday the second largest day of food consumption in the United States but one of the most essential days in which companies are able to advertise their products to a mass amount of people. What people are consuming during this massive event is a strong representation of public life in western culture.

Super bowl commercials have become then main attraction for some people who aren’t particularly huge football fans. A wide range of commercials are played throughout the event such as Doritos, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Cars, electronics, movies, and more. The reason why a majority of the commercials are about junk/social foods; pitching foods high in calories, sugar, fat, and fun, and it’s to trigger the consumption and preference of these products. And it works, the advertising companies make an attractive brand/product surrounding by attractive/appealing things to make us like it at a subconscious level. The messages are affected by the form of its medium, and when these products are associated with emotionally manipulative content they are able to persuade our perception on the product or brand.

We can interpret both positively and negatively on how it contributes to a sense of public life. There is synergy between the super bowl ads and the menu at super bowl parties. This means the viewers have more of an interest to certain products during the super bowl and consumption of these products is at its peak in relation with the events programs and advertisements.  Alcohol, easy to eat finger foods, sodas, and snacks are what a many of these commercials consist of and during the Super Bowl event, these items are served buffet style. You can interpret what is being consumed negatively because the junk foods being consumed can show that the people are unhealthy themselves. With large amount of alcohol being consumed as well, dramatic increase in drunk driving has also been a result. However, this annual event allows people to feel connected and socialize while they eat and watch the big game.  People feel good, eating comfort foods and watching live entertainment with their friends and family.

The Super Bowl event itself promotes competition between groups of people. While people are divided depending on their favorite team they are rooting for, Super Bowl Sunday does bring people together that may have cultural or national differences. “Collective public viewing can interpolate viewers as part of a national audience.” (Sturken and Cartwright) Although people tend to choose a side during the super bowl and one team has to win, people are being brought together to view the national event.

Super Bowl Sunday promotes the feeling of connectedness among its audience. It brings everyone together to laugh, cry, scream, and shout, as they watch this eventful spectacle that inspires awe. Not only is this event a victory for the winning team of the super bowl, but also a victory for brands that were able to advertise in the super bowl marketing. Mass culture is combined by mass media to share interests in what’s being consumed, both visually and physically. Advertisement companies must invest millions of dollars to place in a spot to advertise their products to millions of viewers in hopes of generating awareness and profit in the future. But it’s the dynamics of the Super Bowl game and the sensations brought upon from the event that allow people to socially come together annually.

At the end of the day, America wins the Super Bowl.

The Practices of Looking: Ad Analysis “Neighbor” by FedEx

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          FedEx demonstrates their global campaign of delivering to a changing world in this print advertisement of a man simply handing a package to a woman in a window on a floor below him. Our volatile world is rapidly changing with advances in a vast amount of fields and FedEx is evolving alongside with it. FedEx is showing that customers are able to rely on FedEx to distribute their packages around the world. Denotatively, we’ll notice the simplistic first visual surface layer of the advertisement, but connotatively, the advertisement highlights FedEx’s purpose and its global impact and how it connects the world related to its slogan of, “FedEx delivers to a changing world,” created by BBDO. A very simple image provides a myriad of ideas for consumers to fathom FedEx’s business practices in the transportation industry.

          FedEx displays a section of the world map to demonstrate its availability to its customers with a background of the United States and Brazil in the western hemisphere.  Two open windows in what seems to be different floors in a building complex focusing on a male passing on a white FedEx parcel to a female in the floor below him. The window the male is alongside the border of the United States reaching down with the package towards the female character down south whose window is located alongside the border of Brazil. The woman is happily reaching upward for the package. FedEx is portraying how they are a quick, simple, and easy transporter for the customers’ needs even if the delivery is made across entire countries. The appearance of the maps in the background gives the entire ad context into the geographical location of residence.

          “Less is more,” is a phrase that comes to mind in the format of the ad and how it was made.  FedEx has adequately executes that concept in this ad with a simple and minimalistic style.  What needed to be done in how this advertisement was made was finding an apartment or flat with similar windows and an easy textured wall. But you wouldn’t find an apartment with only two windows vertically parallel to each other with a bunch of empty space along the sides. So removal and simplification of unnecessary windows was done throw the use of software. This does add to the simplicity of the advertisement as well as allowing the background image of the United States and Brazil to be overload behind the characters.

          The characters that appear in this ad look like the average Caucasians crowd. The man is dressed in a simple white T- shirt, and the woman is also dressed in simple casual attire.  The choice of characters and what they wear shows the general targeted audience of simple everyday people who have the desire to deport parcels and packages across to neighbors. They are simple people, who simply want to do simple things. The ad effectively does show that any average person is able to expeditiously use FedEx as a conveyor for their needs. If the characters were wearing more lavish clothing or were in a more business attire, the audience of this ad may perceive FedEx as service for a more upper-class citizen and may have to resort to other competitors to suit their needs. But some may also perceive the ad to be a better quality company because people that appear more opulent generally can attribute to excellence. FedEx would most likely not portray the ad using those character because the ad would focus on a smaller market group. The more common folk are the perfect marketable audience to maximize profits through a wider range of relatable advertisements.

          But is what we see what we get? Is FedEx really able to be the go to service to reach a customer’s needs of being a reliable, quick, and easy transportation service? Customers expect and appreciate responsiveness, satisfaction, and willingness to accept responsibility’s from mistakes or issues that come along the way from the services the company offers. In reality a transportation is not always able expedite shipping processes maybe due to external forces or the chance of unfortunate complications, but they do try to have the intention of doing their best to meet delivery standards. But the purpose of the ad is to show the good side of a company, and what the company is trying to sell to its intended audience. So its goal is to make the customer feel as if they wanted to transport a parcel, it’s as simple as handing it to a neighbor.