It is no secret that the advent of social media has paved the way for people to connect and interact. Inasmuch as social media sites (SMS) like Facebook and Twitter are avenues to bridge the distance between netizens, overuse has been proven to result in isolation from the real world and an overall feeling of detachment. However, one must note that social media, is not intrinsically detrimental. Rather, it’s how we utilize it that determines its impact online.

CNN reports that on an average, an American teenager spends at least 9 hours a day consuming media for various reasons including entertainment. This figure alone gives us an idea how influential online content could be. In fact, one does not have to look far to gauge how much of a powerful tool social media is as simply observing the dynamics of recent Philippine presidential elections can provide an insight. Furthermore, one cannot downplay the impact of social media in the 2016 elections as much of information as regards to the presidential campaigns made their rounds thru Facebook, Twitter, and the like. In fact, social media has evolved from being a platform to inform as it has also become an avenue to perpetuate “false truths”. In other words, misinformation became the gameplay of online politicking.

There are several types of online users but the most toxic of all apart from online criminals are trolls. A troll, aside from being defined as an unintelligent mythical creature, also stands for a person who purposely provokes others on the Internet so as to cause a toxic argument. Thought provokers must not be mistaken as trolls as the latter act mindlessly just like its mythical counterpart.

Rappler’s recent move to filter out inappropriate comments online has stirred debate amongst netizens with some arguing that the initiative per se stifles people from airing their sentiments. While others expressed relief over the decision to remove offensive remarks, some were displeased with the move as “scoring” inappropriateness is more subjective than objective. It is easy to generalize that invectives and racial slurs are no-nos yet a comment meant to constructively criticize can be perceived as an insult. Therefore, what is offensive for you may not be necessarily the case for others.

Both trolls and professional trolls thrive in the reactions they evoke from people. They feed on the emotions they draw out from their readers. Professional trolls, however, get paid for what they do. They may refer to themselves as social media consultants but if their work requires them to engage in an unhealthy argument online, they are basically just trolls camouflaged as white collar employees. However, one must not be quick to dismiss professional trolls as idiotic keyboard warriors as they are a bit more sophisticated than the latter. In fact, these professional trolls are hired by their bosses to do what they do best—that is to condition the minds of the unsuspecting public. These pseudo-consultants could be opinion leaders in their industry, someone who is deemed an expert in his craft and could influence a target demographic. Simply put, they are paid to skew mindsets even if it means having to bombard people with false information. As such, professional trolls are instrumental in forming public opinion the same way traditional media is a popular source of need-to-knows.

Is there a sure-fire way to avoid being immersed in content posted by professional trolls? None. There is however, a way to prevent oneself from falling prey to the atrocities of these online retards—that is not to engage. In a nutshell: “Do not feed the trolls.”

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