Let’s Talk About Trolling

Typically when denouncing a person, place or thing a writer may decide to simply jump into explaining why this entity is a negative.

Yet, most concepts have nuance. It is from this stance that wordy me enjoys writing because I have the length to be able to touch on as many corners of a complex notion that I am able to reach. And hopefully the dialogue that ensues can get me—and the collective, we—to a place of discovering other crevices of the conversation.

Basically I want to show you that I understand as opposed to simply taking a this is bad, this is wrong approach.

Here’s the issue at hand—from my observation: Society has become over-saturated with gimmicks, leaving there little to no room for people that are ruled by integrity and desire a more genuine and sincere approach.

Let’s start with some definitions so we have a basis to work off of.

A gimmick is a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity or business. Integrity is defined as firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.

Before we go any further let me add that gimmicks are not inherently wrong or immoral. One can have integrity and use gimmicks. I do not wish to automatically make a correlation between these two concepts.

In The Worth of an Algorithm, I spoke a bit about this new era we are in. If you are my age or near, you may have grown up during the shift from the old guard (house phones, memorizing phone numbers, meeting people in person) to the new. In any technological advancement, naturally our main objective and focus is the positive.

There’s not much space to judge the ramifications if not all consequences are known to be potential side effects. Yet, we are where we are. And where Siri is telling us that is is in a world where social interaction primarily plays out online. Everything is on your phone. And naturally that means we spend a lot of time there. If you don’t believe me—and you have an iPhone—go check your Screen Time report.

The possibilities of things you could be doing on your phone at any given time are endless: YouTube videos to watch. Snapchats to send. Instagram stories to watch. Twitter and Facebook timelines to scroll through. Music and podcasts to consume. Games to play. Group chats you’re in.

And lastly, the function the device was made for that barely happens these days talking on the phone. Now factor in working, eating, sleeping, etc and there’s but so many hours you can be on this device anyway. The businesses and people that want a second or minute or hour of the time you’re on your phone are having to up the ante on the lengths they’re willing to go to get—and hold—your attention.

Maybe this is why you think your Facebook Messenger app or your Amazon Alexa device are spying on you. There’s power in learning your habits. Learning what content to feed you. In hopes to gain a second, minute or hour of your attention. That’s the currency now. Not Bitcoin. Attention.

So it is this that makes gimmicks even more relevant—and quite frankly, less goofy than its previous connotation might suggest—and pertinent. For some gimmicks are a means to an end, utilizing attention garnered to a skill the audience may not have initially dedicated time to.

But let’s be honest: how many of your favorite trolls have an actual talent they’re pushing at the end of this gimmick?

Some people are ruled by integrity. I call this a cousin to stubbornness. That firm adherence is stubbornness. A bull-headed dedication that this journey is going to take this exact path and that path is going to work. That path isn’t fool-proof. That path isn’t batting 1.000. Some don’t have the time to dedicate to waiting for this dream to come true. Some may simply be inpatient.

Not every narrative is identical here. But there has to be admiration for those that choose that path. For those that held this belief when no one else did. For those that maintained this belief after facing hardships. Rejection. Failure. It’s the road less traveled for a reason. It’s not for the faint of heart. And logistically speaking too, it’s not for everyone.

Regardless of where you stand here, we can agree this path guarantees more long-term placement.

This conversation has happened offline often in the WYE groupchat, on social media and in the culture stratosphere. This conversation led to a poll WYE put out as to whether you would prefer a career like Soulja Boy or Wale? Both are rappers that found mainstream success around the same time. Soulja Boy had a triple-platinum song and platinum album with the success of Crank That.

While Wale has never achieved that high (his best a double-platinum song and two Gold albums), his tenure of musical relevancy has spanned significantly longer. The culture has spent the past few weeks tip-toeing over whether to discuss or not discuss controversial rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine.

After coming on the scene with Gummo in October 2017, his loud appearance and louder trash-talk and antics came to a screeching halt with his November 2018 arrest on racketeering charges as part of a larger ploy to take down the Nine Trey Bloods street gang. Tekashi’s cooperation with the prosecutors—whilst being a somewhat active, somewhat passive contributors to said crimes—has firmly landed the Brooklyn emcee in the snitch category.

A no-no in the culture, any conversation that has been happening is if whether or not 6ix9ine will be welcomed back into the hip-hop ecosystem if he is indeed granted time served in exchange of his testimony. Again, an acknowledgement of the change in times.

I end this with a few questions as I am not the person to solely answer this question—the culture must: where do we draw the line between an honest gimmick that features a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and a simple troll for vying for attention and nothing more?

Should we just ignore and disallow gimmicks all together? If so, how do we cycle through the talent giving ample time we arguably don’t have to digesting the art and skill someone is genuinely attempting to display?

If not, how do we police trolls and their gimmicks? Do we just accept the statement or action as the work of a troll, maybe laugh and move on with our day? Do we spend valuable time trying to determine this?

As always let us know what you think