Creating Responsible Netizens


Filed under: jessica — jessica @ 8:08 pm

Whenever I hear that word, I imagine creepy dolls with spiky colored hair. Perhaps those aren’t the people responsible for wrecking havoc online, but they instill the same sense of disgust within me.

I never really knew how bad trolls could be to me personally. Sure, I see people being nasty in online forum or leaving ugly comments under articles. However, I never felt personally attacked or offended by their comments. With the Web bringing everyone closer, I have learned that trolls are closer to us than we think.

Imagine for a moment, you are a third year law student, ready to score a great job at a leading law firm. You have a perfect GPA, an awesome resume, a sparkling personality, and an appearance worthy of People’s Most Beautiful list. Shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find a job, right? Yet, imagine going from interview to interview (nailing all of them, I might add) yet never actually getting a job. Smelling something fishy going on, you step into the $1000 Italian shoes of your prospective employer. Upon Googling your own name, you discover that the top 10 hits are all incredibly nasty blog posts and forums. Click, click, click. Random strangers (see: trolls) are all hating on you, calling you atrocious names, questioning your character, and even digging up old photos and articles about you.

Let me introduce you to AutoAdmit, “the most prestigious law school admissions discussion board in the world.” This is the stinkhole where anonymous trolls come to bash their peers, identifying them by name and other personal information. Though you may not be concerned what a couple angry, hateful people hidden behind a computer screen are typing, their words (and their lies) all show up whenever someone conducts a Google search on your name. The above scenario is very similar to what happened to two female law students — perfectly normal individuals plucked out of obscurity to be skewered by trolls.

After reading about these current events, I decided to conduct a quick Google search on my own name (my name is actually quite common, so most of the items I found did not pertain to me). I found some old archived news articles from my school district about myself – innocent stuff. I looked a bit harder, and lo and behold, I found myself on AutoAdmit. Granted, it wasn’t the first hit to pop up on Google, but seeing what the trolls wrote really stung. Therefore, I do advise all of you to run a quick Google search of yourself, check the images, check who else shares an alias with you, and make sure you are targeted by sites like AutoAdmit. I sincerely hope that one day people will know to read Google Search results with a grain of salt and that trolls will find a healthier pastime, but until then tread carefully.

If you do want to give yourself a reputation make-over online, here are some quick tips on how to outsmart the trolls. Make sure to join reputable social-networking sites, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Profile. By joining these communities, you can add positive information about yourself to the mix, moving the rubbish to later pages. If worst comes to worst, there are sites that provide more in-depth assistance, like Most importantly, know that trolls exist, monitor what you post online, and be proactive about maintaining an untarnished online reputation.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite movies of 2010, The Social Network: “The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.”