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josie's avatar

What is the difference between a "troll" and a "contrarian"?

Asked by josie (30926points) October 4th, 2015

My dad was known ( affectionately) as a contrarian. People loved him for it.
They said he ” kept them on their toes”. He was popular at social events and civic meetings because he kept the conversation going.

On Fluther, I have noticed that some people who I think might once have been affectionately called contrarians are now disdainfully condemned as trolls.

Unless I am not understanding the difference.

Is there a difference?

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15 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

One disagrees with you the troll deliberately pisses you off.

elbanditoroso's avatar

In internet terms, I’d define a troll as a person who espouses a point (usually counter to prevailing thought but not necessarily) purely to get a rise out of others. The point being espoused isn’t necessarily what the troll actually thinks – it’s more to pour gasoline on a fire or ignite the fire in the first place.

A contrarian, in my opinion, is one who espouses contrary positions, but believes in them. This person is not saying a popular thing, but is saying something that he believes to be true.

It’s kind of a nuanced thing. But to me, a troll is rude an unwanted, while a contrarian may make you think.

josie's avatar

@talljasperman
What if they piss you off but it isn’t deliberate. But you imagine it might be deliberate?

johnpowell's avatar

You are trolling if your goal is to get people to fight. Simple as.

josie's avatar

@johnpowell
How can you fight on an Internet Q And A site?
Which is where the term troll seems to show up.
People exchange words all the time.
Sometimes they go outside and get into a fight.
You can’t do that online. You just log off.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

A contrarian such as your father would introduced another facet of an argument or idea in an entertaining way with a point to it. A troll is often contrary for their own malicious purposes, with no apparent point other than the enjoyment they get from negatively affecting the environment they operate in.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I agree with @johnpowell, but in an online environment I’d say the troll deliberately posts content designed to incite people to argue and/or to upset or offend people. I don’t think a person who genuinely disagrees and states their position is a troll. Unless they are doing so to be obnoxious, to cause offence or to raise people’s ire.

In the Fluther context, I’d add those who post fictitious content about boyfriends, would be suitors, work situations and the like, to seek attention. Attention seeking is the only reason I can see for some of the drivel they post. They seem to enjoy having people genuinely provide answers to their made-up problems. Then a few days later, yet another question along the same lines. Attention-seeking in this way is just as much trolling as the type. In some ways this type are worse because it takes longer to determine they are trolls. In the long term they can still cause offence and irritation.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

“as the FIRST type”. Edit won’t work.

Kardamom's avatar

Trolls are sort of the internet equivalent of people who have Munchausen Syndrome, as compared to people who actually have an illness, disease, or medical condition. They just want attention, whether that attention is negative or positive.

thorninmud's avatar

Trolling is a power trip. Trolls create situations where they can manipulate the emotions of others, which is to have a measure of power over them. It makes them feel like puppet masters, pulling strings from behind a curtain.

Contrarians enjoy the interesting things that happen when beliefs and opinions are challenged. There’s a dialectical attempt to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of positions through opposition. Although there’s often some emotional reaction to the challenge, that’s not the payoff for the contrarian.

Jaxk's avatar

I would view it as: a troll will put forward indefensible positions to frustrate others while a contrarian will point out inconsistencies in popular beliefs. Sometimes a contrarian can be more frustrating than a troll.

rojo's avatar

I think it boils down to perspective: I am a contrarian, you are a troll.

rojo's avatar

Just to clarify, not you personally @josie, more like everyone but me

rojo's avatar

@josie Mom would describe your dad as “someone who would argify the ‘ind leg off a dog”.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Trolling is entertainment, sometimes for the troll but more often than not for everyone. The good trolls know how to both entertain and keep the situations that they create under control. The internet would be a boring place without them. It’s an art form that deserves respect when done properly.

Contrarians simply want to argue aimlessly. I respect the troll over the contrarian.

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