Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Scientists find elusive 'trolling' gene in mice

After years of searching, scientists at Sierra Madre City College have managed to isolate a gene in mice which may predict which ones will become trolls on social media. "We think this has applications in humans as well," said genetics professor Bill Datwall, "since, unlike mice, humans can actually depress the keys on a keyboard."  

In the study, mice were shown photos of politicians, then offered a piece of cheese. The mice which ate the cheese and went to sleep were deemed "normal." Those which exhibited what scientists call a "barf response" were isolated for further study. They were then shown political tweets by random Americans, and the mice which began tossing their tiny food at the screen had their blood drawn for DNA analysis.

Researchers also took blood samples from Twitter users who described themselves as "patriotic," "passionate" and "unswayed by facts." While mouse and human DNA cannot be directly compared, there was a visual similarity in the readout which scientists called "striking." On the human DNA chart, said one researcher, "It looked like a tiny dude in a flag bandana flipping the bird." In the mouse readout, "Same dude, only smaller and furrier."

This research is part of a wider study which includes such recent white papers as "Are dolphins jerks?" and "If you give an tapir a Tumblr." Findings strongly suggest that messing with people is not just something that people do. "Your dog is probably trolling you all day," says pet psychologist Dag Walker. "He just doesn't have the opposable thumbs to get himself in trouble on Instagram."

There may come a day when the trolling gene is not only identifiable but removable before birth. Parents may have to decide whether it is a desired or repulsive trait. They might conclude they want a child who is blonde, athletic and, when grown, a total pukestorm in comments sections everywhere. Or they might decide to remove that gene, along with skin that burns too easily and an inclination toward death metal.

Of course, it may turn out that people who post horrifically hateful tweets or comments are not genetically predisposed. They might just be acting out of their own fear or pain. Having empathy toward someone who wishes you a fiery death, preferably after you endure a lengthy sexual assault by rabid yaks, takes character. 

Or you could, you know, just go offline and maybe crack a book now and then. 

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