Do you remember grumpy old trolls or the troll dolls you rub for good luck? Well, trolls no longer live under bridges - they live behind computer screens. In today’s high tech world of internet slang, the word trolls refers to people who “antagonize others online by deliberating posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content.” And these self-proclaimed internet personalities are part of a social media subculture whose behavior can be dangerous.
A subgroup affiliated with trolls are known as “stans.” A stan is described as “an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity often having accounts dedicated to them.”
But what exactly do stans and trolls do online? Some just make light humor of pop culture, while others start viral campaigns against certain celebrities with a entire repertoire of vulgar photos, videos, and references.
The Twitter account @Celeste_Treal (known to their followers as “Celeste”) is an average troll/stan account started in 2013 with 2,468 followers. It is known for the popular Supernanny meme that went viral in September 2018. In a series of direct messages, Celeste states the social media account “was just something to pass the time and eventually became like a second home to me. Because of this platform, I have met so many mutuals (people who follow and frequently interact with each other) and I honestly share things with them that I would never talk about with my friends I see face to face.”
Considering trolls/stans are known for inflammatory and often disparaging posts, their behavior is often viewed as cyberbullying. When questioned about the ethics of their posts, Celeste says, “Well it is the internet so of course some things can go out of hand, a prime example would be #TakeDownMillieBobbyBrown movement that a few mutuals started last November. It was definitely not our proudest moment but I took a part in it nonetheless.”
#TakeDownMillieBobbyBrown refers to the hate campaign started against the Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown, who was 13 years old at the time. It portrayed her as a homophobe, racist, and xenophobe. According to an article written by Vox, while no one believed it was true, it doesn’t mean it's wasn’t harmful. The hate campaign eventually lead to the young star to deactivate all of her social media accounts.
But not everything about trolling is harmful and aggressive. Celeste goes on to state how trolls benefit others tremendously. “It's not all bad, I mean this summer a mutual of mine started the popular girl meme Life with Mak, and she now has this huge following that she wouldn’t have had if not for us spamming the videos of her.”
Life with Mak (real name Makenna) is yet another 13 year old girl, but internet trolls created the opposite effect. The young Youtuber creates a multitude of content having to do with the internet sensation ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). ASMR videos evoke a sensory response in the viewer. They are taking Youtube by storm. The massive influx of memes and reaction videos being posted has gained Makenna over a million followers.
With our ever growing fascination with social media, where will the internet takes us next?
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