Trolling is a phenomenon all too common on the internet. Trolling, essentially the act of posting something on the internet to irritate other users, is nearly everywhere. You can find incidents of trolling on forums, blogs, and even Youtube.
A popular method of trolling on Youtube currently involves posting anything (and everything) about Justin Beiber in the comments of a video. Even Justin Beiber videos get trolled... about Justin Beiber... It's mind boggling, right!? At the time of writing this blog, the current highest rated comment for the video with the most views on Youtube, Justin Beiber's "Baby" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kffacxfA7G4&feature=player_embedded#at=76), is "I had to pause the video at 0:00 I couldn't watch anymore of this bullsh*t". Upon closer examination of this piece of information, the following conclusion can be drawn: the most popular comment on the most popular video of Youtube is a troll comment; trolling must be fairly popular.
One reason trolling is so popular is because often times, for the majority of people, it is funny/enjoyable. Many troll posts are targeted at groups of people that share the minority opinion. That's not to say that this activity is "okay", but when comment sections are often ruled by mob mentality, the minority opinion often does not stand a chance. What makes this act all the more enjoyable for the troll is that he or she rarely would has to answer for their actions; from a psychological point of view, the antagonist gets a reward (by irritating others) and has either no risk or limited risk of punishment due to their anonymity online.
According to the article "Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt" by Julie Zhuo (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/opinion/30zhuo.html?_r=2&hp), which focuses on a variety of problems caused by being anonymous, "Morality, Plato argues, comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions, we would all behave unjustly." This is exactly why trolls flourish online; there is no repercussion for the trolls actions. Not only is there rarely any form of online punishment, but offline punishment is basically non-existent. To the extreme, people can go online and post negative comments about homosexuals, other races, women, and more, yet these comments will never be attached to them in the real world. If they did something like that in the workplace, they would be fired and packing up the items in their desk by lunch time.
Trolling, while typically shown in a bad light, doesn't have to be taken to extremes however. Take the Justin Beiber comment for example. While it may annoy some people, others probably find it funny. When trolling is meant to annoy and not to cause harm, similar to teasing between siblings, maybe it is not so bad after all. However, all can agree that it is easy for trolling to get taken too far, and this is often times the case.
With great power comes great responsibility. The power to comment or post on nearly any topic anywhere on the internet, often anonymously, is pretty amazing. The lack of responsibility that is often exercised, however, is also amazing...