David Williams

Lecturer - BSc Computing & Multimedia / BSc Business / Game Anal, Arvato

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Is trolling the start of sociopathic behaviour?

As we are losing the social interaction skills that were previously developed over time from social environments like play and outdoor games, with online gaming and social networking, are we encouraging a lack of accountability for sociopathic behaviour online?

Do we need do include social skills as an agreed part of educational programmes?

For example in traditional social environments a bully could be held accountable and shunned or even defended against, in cyber bulling there is little if any backlash which can result in a feeling of immunity to the social norms, and as such sociopathic behaviour can be dismissed as trolling.

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    Sep 11 2013: Just to push back against the statement that "in traditional social environments a bully could be held accountable and shunned or defended against," I think that's a lot more true in theory than it is in practice.

    The schoolyard case that's being discussed is a very particular one -- kids at school are one of the most heavily monitored, socially regulated groups possible. Parents bullying their children, domestic partner bullying domestic partner, customers bullying staff are all situations I've witnessed repeatedly, and I'm sure the list goes on. Behavior that crosses into illegal activity can be acted upon, with online trolling as with in-person harassment, but there is quite a lot of offline bullying that no one is ever punished or chided for, especially since there's usually no written evidence.

    So yes! I believe social skills should be a more important part of education -- but no, I don't see that as purely the influence of online communication.
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      Sep 11 2013: Hi Morton, that's a really interesting perspective, so i shouldn't necessarily separate it from normal interactions but perhaps that it may exacerbate certain behaviors?
  • Sep 13 2013: I think it's an element of expression and this leads to socialization. Obviously this kind of dialogue can't manifest in a reality where physical harm is likely :), but if this kind of individual did not have this kind of outlet they would be pushed into an asocial world which would be the perfect habitat to cultivate and complete the sociopathic condition.

    Moreover its my assumption that people who troll generally do so in jest and develop a personal bond that would deter a general hatred of people and instead a non-violent method of dealing with the discontent of the human condition (ie they are therapeutically venting).
  • Sep 13 2013: I believe it is and we need to remove the feeling of immunity and hidden identity for most of the internet except for certain sites.
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    Sep 12 2013: Are trollists very quiet people? It would be interesting to see a study done on it.
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    Sep 12 2013: No. Trolling is the culmination of antisocial behavior. It is malicious, counter-productive behavior emboldened by the shield of anonymity.
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      Sep 12 2013: I think David may be thinking of trolling by young people and whether that foretells something about future behaviors.

      I think you are right that if it is one person acting independently, it is entirely anti-social. If it is a pack of people in coordination bullying targets, as I think it can be among young people, it might in a sense be social. Would you consider street gangs social or anti-social? It is social on one level and antisocial on another, I think.
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        Sep 12 2013: There is a truism of Sociology which says birds of a feather flock together. If all street gangs are believed to be opposed to the general welfare then it is justified to label them all as "antisocial". I agree that street gangs can be referred to generally as "social" entities of the "antisocial" type. Anyway, trolls are rather sophisticated misanthropes, they are definitely not neophytes! But, ICBW (I could be wrong).
        • Sep 13 2013: exactly, trolling is definitely not asocial behavior...

          however, sociopathic behavior is not necessitated by asocial behavior. gang (violent) activity as you bring up displays the characteristics (behavior that lacks a sense of moral responsibility or conscience)

          I myself responded incorrectly, the question asks does this behavior cultivate a person who will shun moral responsibility? Yes, but then the next question, if this behavior is being honed was it already present in an imperfect form and thus inevitable?
  • Sep 12 2013: trolling is a relatively broad term, but i think it has more to do with immaturity.
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    Sep 11 2013: Including ' ... social skills as an agreed part of educational programmes' is patching symptoms yet no healing of the source of our social decay and as such only delays what is about to die.

    I would agree on those programs as a first and quick response to gain time, yet without reflecting on and fixing of the cause of the general problem, they won't help at all.

    To me the first and main source for us to learn our social skills, is the smallest entity of and the most important pillar for any society: The family.

    Although this form of social grouping is no natural given constant, it has been chosen freely over many generations and at different places on this planet, by which we can consider it to be valid and native to our species.

    So when I take a look on 'our first world' societies, which recently entered the 'information age', there seems to be a relation in between the 'pace of life' and increasing numbers of divorces and single living individuals at an overall decline in birth rates by an increasing life expectancy of those alive.

    What comes to my mind on this is 'exchangeability' towards which we not only freed ourself but also got forced into. We change our partners, jobs and material goods faster than ever before, which may became to fast for certain aspects of reproduction to flourish?

    Even if I would like to, I wouldn't be able today to live the life my father was able to. In general, there is nothing wrong and new to this, but what seems to be new is the distance which has grown in between both our generations.

    Today we live more to the right of an 'exponential curve' of change, which, by its nature, can neither be 'lived' nor felt as being linear.

    Given this current pace may this be reason why parents seem to spent less time to teach their children even the most basic social skills? And is this because they don't want to spend this time or because they don't have this time anymore?

    What if lacking social skills was a necessity to endure future?
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    Sep 11 2013: I don't know, David. Isn't cyberbullying very rare? It seems like most bullies want to physically bully people where they can force themselves into the presence of the other person, if the other person tries to get away the bully folows them, whereas in cyberbullying you can discourage a cyberbully by simply not responding to them.
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    Sep 11 2013: Hello David:>)
    I don't think we are losing social interaction skills, and perhaps they are changing? Did we have any kind of "accountability" for sociopathic behaviors previously? If sociopathic behaviors impacted the family or friends, there may be accountability within the family/friends. Or if sociopathic behaviors led to illegal behaviors, incarceration may be the ramification.

    I suspect that those who have well developed, accepted social skills would probably demonstrate those behaviors on line as well as in other situations?
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    Sep 11 2013: Do you think of sociopathic behavior as a dimension that places people on a scale from zero to one hundred, or more like a category that is indicated by having surpassed a set of diagnostic thresholds?

    Trolling is not community spirited, but it exists in a variety of forms, just as other communications do. For example, there are clowning sorts of trolls who may disrupt regularly for attention and in that create annoyance, but there are also trolls who engage in much more destructive behaviors and intentions.

    In some trolls one sees the schoolyard bully and in others the schoolyard clown.
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      Sep 11 2013: Thats quite interesting but again, do you think the clown in only the clown online because of it being a virtual identity as opposed to a real one? and do we run the risk that the clown could, like the bully push things to far because the social accountability is no longer there?
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        Sep 11 2013: David,
        I see on-line interactions as "real", and different. As Fritzie writes...trolling is not community spirited and exists in a variety of forms.

        As thinking, feeling, multi sensory, multi dimensional intelligent human beings, we can sense behaviors even on line.

        Sure, on line "profiles" and accounts that are created may not totally reflect the personality of the person writing the comments. However, there is still an identity of some sort being projected/reflected with the comments.

        There is a certain degree of accountability and acceptance with TED for example.....the moderators. As individual participants in on line conversations, we have the ability and choice to simply not participate with some people.....just as we have choices in our world to participate with certain people, or not. In that way we can demonstrate and encourage a certain level of accountability.....don't you think?
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        Sep 11 2013: Yes, clowns can push things too far for other people's comfort, but I don't know whether that automatically becomes sociopathology. It depends on how you use the term.

        And yes, people often behave under pseudonyms in ways they would not under their own names.