The war of words on social media around Gurmehar’s video has raised a small conceptual question for me: What is trolling?
Before I explain why this question I must clarify that this note is not about the justification or otherwise of Gurmehar’s stand. Her complete series of posters makes a lot of sense, though it has its merits and demerits. There are many reasonable and calm responses in circulation by now. I leave that matter for a sane debate. This note is only regarding understanding “what is trolling”.
Last evening a very aware intellectual friend called and in conversation said that Sehwag “trolled” Gurmehar. And of course everyone is crying hoarse that he did troll.
But Sehwag twitted only once. That too without tagging Gurmehar, though his tweet makes it clear that it was in response to her.
So I asked my friend: “what is the difference between a response and trolling? Can a single response be called trolling?”
Friend: “Trolling is when one becomes personal.”
Me: “But Sehwag did not say anything personal.”
Friend: “Randip Hudda tagged Gurmeher with clapping symbols.”
Me: “But Hudda is not Sehwag, and clapping and tagging is not necessarily a personal attack.”
Friend: “But Sehwag trolled”
Me: “How? If Sehwag’s single post is trolling, tell me how can one respond on social media?”
Friend: “Sehwag was sarcastic.”
Me: “But sarcasm is always there in political debates. Is every sarcastic response trolling?”
Friend: “Sehwag’s analogy is not appropriate. ‘War killed, not Pakistan’ is not the same thing as ‘My bat made centuries, not me’”.
Me: “Then accuse Sehwag of bad analogy and bad reasoning, why of trolling?”
Friend: “Sehwag is a celebrity, he should not have responded to a young student.”
Me: “Why? If a young person says something you do not agree with, then you should keep mum? And even if you consider it bad manners to respond to young people, then accuse him of breaking a social norm.”
The point is: I did not get what is trolling:
1. If someone writes a single comment below this post, a very sarcastic one, will it become trolling?
2. If this comment is picked up by friends of the person who made it and re-posted at 1000 places, can the first person be accused of trolling? Or is it that the friends who are responsible for repeated re-posting should be accused?