Friday, September 23, 2011

A companion field guide to trolls

As a child one used to like the tale of "Three Billy Goats Gruff" and it was the first introduction to a troll. They were creatures of myth and mayhem that were prone to a meanness of spirit. Something their human counterparts seem to share and something that one has become more intimately acquainted with thanks to online forums. We think of a troll as being an antagonistic creature that stirs trouble. Honestly though one thinks there is more than one type that hangs out on forums, and this field guide will endeavour to catalogue and examine some of them.

Chapter One:
Genus: Troll
Species: consuetudo
Common name: The familiar troll... otherwise known as is that so and so back again.

The subject is attracted to those with strong opinions, who aren't afraid to voice them. At its heart it is a troll; it likes confrontation. It also knows that these people will not only provide it with the best cover and enable it to blend, but the best sport on the net. All it has to do is stand around and come out on the side of a potential friend... they will do the rest. Needless to say it hangs out in groups that will not only best serve its needs, but allow it to meet the right people.

Life cycle:
Stage 1:
Usually the subject appears out of nowhere, often exhibiting advanced communication skills despite its professed newness to the online medium. In fact this erudite communication skill is what attracts its victims... well no one wants to hang out with stupid sounding people... it makes you look bad. The troll comes along, has the right credentials to fit into a demographic, speaks the right language or talks the talk and is accepted into the fold. Inserting itself into a group with confidence and assurity, the familiar troll becomes friends with people. Often this friendship leads them to know the peoples real names and a wealth of little details via memos, IMs and the odd phone call... well knowledge is power after all.

Stage 2:
Adult developmental stage:
Things usually go along swimmingly until people start to ask too many questions. When this happens the troll will do one of two things. It will disappear, if it is not too invested in its character or it will stick it out. Trolls are predatory creatures, not well suited emotionally to being prey... unless they think the victim card can be worked to their favour. At this stage it usually gets ugly with the troll's friends defending them and rallying to its defence. Eventually though if enough heat is applied to the subject it will explode... leaving an egg like substance on people's faces.
It is worth noting that the victims of the troll often follow two paths themselves. They adopt a shame on us approach or they continue to believe that their friend was simply misguided and wanted to belong... a little too much. Well it is easier to give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes... Nixon came good in the end.

Stage 3:
The metamorphosis:
In this phase of its lifecycle the familiar troll makes a comeback. They change and evolve; often fixing the issues that got it spotted last time.
Say last time it was single and this lead to too many offers it couldn't keep ducking, a smart familiar troll might invent a partner to keep the would be suitors away. It is fast and efficient and besides, everyone loves a romance to share in. Now if this strategy was a bust, for whatever reason or if it was the thing that lead to its demise, then next time out they might invent a pre-existing partner... one that enables them to blend in with the target audience. Hanging out with married people? Invent a husband. Need a reason to for him to never be there? Oh he travels... a lot.
You get the idea... fast, adaptive and utterly cynical.

Spotting the familiar troll:
In spite of its adaptive skills a familiar troll can be spotted. See it is a creature of habit and besides, it believes in its own abilities and the gullibility of others... it's a bit lazy like that. When making a character it is good to stick to what you actually know... or are at least familiar with. What better template than yourself or someone you know; keeping some essentials like age, hair colour, children and hobbies, cuts down on a lot of work. It also replicates background details because on some level it embraces certain beliefs and interests.

What the familiar troll can't do very well is mask writing style because style is something that evolves over time with practise, and as such it quite ingrained and hard to correct, particularly on a fast paced board. This is in part why it will hang out with the same core members it did last time... If you have a sharp tongue it is better to stick with your own kind. It is worth noting that it might not get as close to some of the more nosey ones as last time, and it will avoid those that asked too many sharp questions. Sometimes it just can't resist a trophy though, and it will form a friendship with one or two who slighted it last time... well everyone likes a little payback.

Often what sets off the observers alarms is their perfect nature. Their talk is a little too good, their lives a little too perfect and their evident confidence a little too polished. They never seem to have doubts or meltdowns or even emotional difficulties with things. In short they are a little one dimensional in some ways... trust that little voice on this matter.

Control and eradication:
Now when you have one of these in your midst there is very little you can do. Any questions are either going to make it duck off or worse... stand its ground. This always leads to unpleasantness and off the cycle goes. No, you are much better either cutting it off from the intimacy it craves or watching the endless entertainment it provides... preferably from a safe distance. 


lil said...

This should be widely distributed as a public service announcement lol.

Anonymous said...

I love this.

And have encountered the familliar troll several times on various message boards.

Dina said...

This, instantly made me think of what's her face. LOL Why, on Earth, have you thought of her now I wonder.

Master's piece said...


Owl said...

Ok, I now know who this is about. I wasn't around for all the drama the first time, and to be honest I was somewhat blindsided by the news. I've haven't seen evidence, but the stories are very compelling... so I'm curious and keeping watch to see if I'll be convinced. Oh, internet. There's always drama somewhere.