Perhaps one of the most common and iconic fantasy enemies is the goblin as well as its various incarnations. Orcs are roughly the same thing as goblins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s world, and when we think about trolls, we tend to imagine a sort of goblin kin. In Dungeons & Dragons this kin has its own term–goblinoids.
Matt Colville, D & D polygot and advocate extraordinary, has a very informative video on goblinoids.
As a beginner DM, I’ve used goblins and hobgoblins as major protagonists in my first campaign. It’s been a rather enjoyable adventure so far, and I’ve been very pleased with using hobgoblins as martial baddies. In doing so, I’ve been thinking about these monsters and it occurred to me that goblinoids embody the worst traits of top social media platforms.
To my mind, everyone online uses a combination of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit. Many and most use all to varying degrees. For example, I’ve only recently begun posting on YouTube but have enjoyed the channels on it for some time, am a heavy Twitter user, am only on Facebook because it serves as a login for other apps and its ubiquity makes it a go-to for rural and people of a certain age who I am forced to keep in contact with, and while I read and post links on Reddit, I have zero interest in ‘discussing’ anything with anyone on that platform because nearly all users there are or become toxic.
So four platforms and three goblinoids, how is that going to balance out? Let’s take a look at the features of the goblinoids:
- Goblins, the iconic goblinoid: nasty, brutish, and short, but sneaky.
- Hobgoblins, a militaristic goblinoid that organizes armies and fights exceptionally well.
- Bugbears, a hulking, predatory goblinoid that delights in causing terror and fear in the beings they kill.
Small and weak, bitter and cowardly, the goblin proper overwhelms through sheer numbers. To my mind, this would be a profile you could easy graft onto the standard Twitter troll–the kind of dude who uses the Not All Men and Blue Lives Matter hashtags, aggressive beta-male sexism courses through their veins, their default barb is ‘I bet you’re fun at parties,’ they think reverse racism is a thing, and won’t admit calling someone a SJW or Globalist is really a dogwhistle. Individually, goblins are petty and forgettable but gather a horde of them and they become an issue…such is the state of Twitter.
Ugly and looking for a fight, the hobgoblin is not only more organized but gets more strength from being near like-minded kin than the goblin. If a hobgoblin can’t fight a foe, then it’ll turn on a friend. Proudly lacking sophistication and reveling in abuse especially of those less fortunate, less culturally or legally protected, or privileged than they, hobgoblins strike me as an excellent black mirror reflection of Reddit and YouTube, specifically its comments section. There are many, many genuinely intelligent, engaging, funny, and talented people using Reddit/YouTube so I am in no way saying those platforms are littered with baddies. What I am saying is that when you encounter the contrarian-for-contrarian’s sake Reddit/YouTube troll, they very much resemble a hobgoblin.
Finally, there’s the bugbear. Size defines this creature for me. It’s strength comes from not just moving in packs but being large and expansive. A bugbear is predatory while believing itself be to persecuted; it takes no responsibility; and it provides little for anyone yet demands egregious compensation. Given the recent news, I’d say this pretty much describes Facebook to a tee. Again, the vast majority of Facebook users aren’t like this but the platform encourages users to become like this.
All the platforms mentioned, if each had its way, would turn its users into malformed and malignant goblinoids. This is why we have to be on-guard when engrossed within a particular social media platform, not just because our privacy will be violated or our personal information abused but also because the way the platform is designed encourages users to embrace the twisted goblinoid ethic.
Read more about the effects of social media platforms: