TED Conversations

Theodore A. Hoppe


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What are we to do with "Comment Trolls" here at TED?

Stephen Downs writes on his blog that I subscribe to, "OLDWeekly. He recently wrote on the subject of " comment trolls."
"We'll use the word 'science' a little loosely here, but meanwhile there's an interesting survey on the consequences of comment trolls: "it appeared that pushing people's emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs." The author offers an explanation, "the psychological theory of motivated reasoning," akin to Hume's dictum, but I think the interplay between thoughts and feelings (if they are even distinct things) is a lot more complex than that. That said, I can attest first-hand to the way comment trolls can drain the life out of a discussion, out of a website, out of living itself. Which, of course, if their intent."
The author Downes is referring to is Chris Mooney. His article in Mother Jones observes:
"In the context of the psychological theory of motivated reasoning, this makes a great deal of sense. Based on pretty indisputable observations about how the brain works, the theory notes that people feel first, and think second. The emotions come faster than the "rational" thoughts—and also shape the retrieval of those thoughts from memory. Therefore, if reading insults activates one's emotions, the "thinking" process may be more likely to be defensive in nature, and focused on preserving one's identity and preexisting beliefs."


Have a look at the article and share your thoughts.


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  • Jan 19 2013: Self mastery! The evidence for seeking mastery of self, emotions and reasoning seems abundant. Is mastering oneself the underlying topic here? Or is it trolls?

    Good topic you introduce here!
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      Jan 19 2013: Kurt, have you read a post war on climate change that has deteriorated to a insult slinging match by some very intelligent people? It's amazing to read as it also turns into a "link" war.
      • Jan 19 2013: No, I haven't read, but I know of some of it observing here. TED's moniker is ideas worth spreading, note the word worth. Someone feels something is worth their words. What is evident here is the definition of worth is subjective. Someone posts links to offer their stance on something worthy.

        Self mastery is a worthy concept and it is worth a separate idea conversation. Loving your fellow humans will always be the right pathway to better relations. You cannot love people by striking them physically or verbally or through the written word.

        I am not aware of a world wide rule that trolls must act like trolls. The question above asks what are we to do. I don't know the answer to Mr. Hoppe's concern. It does seem right to promote mastery of self which in love will result in patience and tolerance of others. It's all about good quality, civil behavior. More of this happens with love and this must be accepted deep inside a person. I know this is true because of my own ugly behavior in the past. Love is the better way.
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          Jan 19 2013: Sometimes I love reading these wars for the knowledge of the two combatants is brought to bear if they don't resort to throwing links at each other and starts a round of knit picking at the veracity of the links.

          Yet you can't beat what you stated. "Self mastery"
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      Jan 19 2013: Yes, we can learn to own our feelings
      Others do not make us angry. we get angry.
      There's a big difference.
      • W T 100+

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        Jan 19 2013: Typing away is sometimes easy, and doesn't require much thinking at times.
        Noone interrupts our written response, so it's easy to....."let it rip"....

        Whereas if we were face to face with a group of people, surely one or more of them would interrupt us in mid-sentence to correct us, or put up an opposition.

        There is also the factor that what you write might be perceived wrongly by the reader, and thus contribute to the trolling behavior. Although some people, like the example in your link, need no excuse for their harsh words.

        I have had comments, which I felt were in harmony with the other party's thoughts, perceived as an attack.....and then I've had to go through explaining how they were misunderstanding me.

        I have also commented in direct opposition to what is being said, and the other person perceived it as my validation of their own thoughts....Go figure?

        There is a site I use where you can even block the persons you consider to be trolls. You'll see their name, but you are in control of whether or not you read their comments....Funny thing is, you'll start to see a pattern, and usually all the members will block the same individual.....Nobody likes on-line trolls!

        Conversation, of any type, is an art.....it is to be mastered.......Like Mark said, perhaps this is all about self-mastery.

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