Trolling and Virtual Identities


In recent times, ‘trolling’ has become a part of the digital world and has become a part of many of our virtual identities.

These are actions that many of us wouldn’t even think of being a part of in the physical world, yet seem normal in our virtual world and become part of our social identity.

A recent article in the Evening Standard by Benjamin Cohen highlights the trend of Trolls sending sexually explicit pictures of themselves to strangers on social media.

The article in question highlights a growing consensus concerning how different we are on social media compared to our identities in the physical world. Almost as if our identity on social media is separated from our physical identity.

Consequence, or lack thereof, is highlighted as the reason why many ‘troll’ and feel it is OK to participate in sharing naked pictures or the Twitter phenomenon known as #NakedSunday.


The article notes that the ‘porn troll’ in question sent the pictures from his “Facebook account, which linked squarely to his real-world identity.”()

If the writer in question wanted to, he could have shared the explicit picture with his work colleagues, friends and family. The damage in his physical interactions and well being could have been catastrophic yet the callous nonchalance of the troll’s actions seem to outweigh the consequences of their actions.


When identities collide.


Psychologist Dr Elaine Kaske mirrors the remarks in the article, stating that. “When it comes to exposing yourself on the internet, you can do so immediately, and a large percentage of the time there may be no consequences.” (Psychologist Dr Elaine Kasket)”


What happens then when there are consequences? When our virtual and physical identities collide and you are held accountable for your online actions offline?

The story of Brenda Leyland shows just how unmanageable it can become when she ended her life, following her trolling of the Mccann’s on twitter getting exposed by reporters of tabloid newspapers.


The sad story gives us a stark example of how our actions online seem so removed from our physical identities, that we feel we can be as horrible, nasty and self righteous as we desire. However when we have to come to terms with our actions, and are judged accordingly, the shame elicited caused at least one troll to end their life to distance herself from of the consequences of her actions.

Distancing herself from her problems as many of us do by living out our fantasies using our virtual identity online.

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