In the same year that Reddit, 4chan and Anonymous all entered the mainstream lexicon, "trolling" had more of an effect online and offline than ever before. "Trolling," when used on the Internet, usually refers to when someone is a jerk for the sake of being a jerk, when someone does something simply because they can. Deadspin's Drew Magary has labeled 2011 "The Year We Became The United States of Trolling" and made a list of everything that happened this year that enraged and dumbfounded us, from Rebecca Black's "Friday" video, the Kardashians, Charlie Sheen, and even that awful show The Killing. They all make the cut. "You're not getting anywhere in this country anymore if you're a good person who wants to make a valuable contribution to society," Magary argues. And he's right! Jerks have always won, and they all work in finance.
Our most cynical bones want to agree with him, but we can't. Strike it up to leftover holiday cheer. We just released a list of the most important hacks of the year, and they all accomplished something positive or at least attacked institutions worthy of our ire. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement and everything in between, the hacks that mattered proved that "trolling" can actually enact change. They are one in the same. The origins of each of those hacks lies dangerously close to the parts of the Internet where the best rage comics and lol-worthy photos come from.
We can't predict how 2012 will shake out. If the Republican primaries are any indication, we'll likely get more of the same. We'll always have our New Year's resolutions though. Maybe we can all agree to be nicer people, and never say "winning" again.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.