Parody tweets take trolling too far

Managing Editor and Managing Editor

When you visualize a “troll,” what do you see?

It probably isn’t a furry creature of folklore lurking under a bridge, or a plastic 1960s doll with an unkempt hairdo.

The birth of the Internet and its subsequent population by thousands of bitter, crafty pranksters have significantly altered the meaning of the age-old word “troll.”

Does a blog reader keep posting negative comments? Troll.

Do you click on a link expecting to find a risqué website and find a sub-par music video instead? Troll.

Although “trolling situations” sometimes make for good conversation, anonymous trolls sometimes take seemingly harmless insults too far. And with its global reach and its quick, easy-to-use platform, Twitter is the perfect tool for such trolls to attack their feeble targets.

On a college campus, where free time is abundant for some less-than-average students and wit is in high supply, campus-themed Twitter accounts sprout up like springtime daisies. Anonymous students manning the accounts quickly earn a reputation within the student body, utilizing inside jokes and quirky insults to poke fun at college-specific characteristics.

Some people may think they’re funny. But to me, most of them are just trolls.

The trolls invaded the University well over a year ago, with accounts @Falcon_Problems and @OnlyatBGSU dominating and @BGslutz, @Vagina_Rock, @BGSU_Squirrels, @FrattytheFalcon and @McFAILCenter playing catch-up in comparison. A handful of other accounts exist.

While the first two accounts make me chuckle — admittedly, I follow them to my phone for a good laugh — the rest rarely do.

Often, they’re just outlandish. Sometimes, they’re sexist and politically incorrect. Frequently they’re just mean and trying way too hard, failing to capitalize on their potential.

As the list of new University-themed Twitter accounts continues to grow, I can’t help but grumble “enough is enough.”

I don’t blame their operators for trying — after all, seeing the two successful accounts gaining so much respect on the Internet must fuel a desire for a piece of the egotism pie.

And with Twitter’s shield of anonymity preventing any real-world backlash, what’s the harm?

Unfortunately, these anonymous accounts can inflict much more damage than their fledgling operators realize.

The victims: The older man, a non-traditional student whose picture is circulating as you mock him. The school Quidditch team and Anime club, as you poke fun at their passions. The women, Greeks, gays and freshmen whose stereotypes you perpetuate. The student journalist whose story you criticized without even reading. (Yeah, the last one is me, @McFAILCenter.)

Based on my observations, veteran accounts @Falcon_Problems and @OnlyatBGSU understand balanced humor captures an audience. They’re the least troll-like.

Their relevant, quick-witted jokes engage the student body, linking its members through common ties like hefty parking tickets, bone-chilling bad weather and crowds of campus protestors.

Students don’t know who @Falcon_Problems and @OnlyatBGSU are — and probably never will — but nonetheless feel a connection to the anonymous accounts.

Their frequent retweets make us feel special. Reading statements like last week’s “Just had to say ‘excuse me’ to a squirrel” and “Handing out Natty Lights for trick-or-treat” make us smile.

Sure, sometimes @Falcon_Problems and @OnlyatBGSU also get out of hand, but usually they just teach us how to laugh at ourselves and our University — and have fun, not feel bad, in the process.

A successful joke doesn’t always require insulting someone.

This is why @Falcon_Problems and @OnlyatBGSU succeed among University students, while the other University-themed accounts, relying almost solely on thoughtless insults and rarely engaging students, fall short, trapped in the land of trolls.

To successfully utilize social media, the golden rule is to “think before you post.” Even if your account is anonymous, this rule still applies if you want to retain an audience.

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