As I continue to pull back from a lot of online areas – mostly due to the constant barrage of “what Donnie does, what Donnie says” – I have noticed that internet trolling is becoming more and more common. As well as open criticism without regard for what is being read. We’re a good worldwide society at complaining, sniping, and criticising other perspectives. The internet provides a lot of cover for those that decide to hide behind a pseudonym or fake profile to achieve their means.
I’ll admit, getting the zinger in does feel good. I do it all the time with the President’s Twitter account. Well, not ALL the time. I do have a life. But I do toss in a zinger from time to time.
I would love to think that the President of the United States actually reads my trolling efforts, but I sincerely doubt it. Besides, I am not trying to provoke a response from him. Since this is a communications medium tied to a Presidential administration, that means that when he finally does leave the White House these will be part of his Presidential archive (by law). I just wanted to be sure my voice was added to that for future reference. 🙂
But let’s come back to the area I am wanting to work with here – how we communicate. Or rather, how we choose to communicate within an open, online “forum”. I am sure you have seen the “battles” that take place on Facebook, and I am sure there are a lot of you out there who, like me, are tired of watching the energy that gets expended in these exchanges. These exchanges that solve nothing, and change no one’s already well-set perspective.
For some, these exchanges are what they get off on. They enjoy spreading the anger by cajoling others into an interaction. When one responds in an angry fashion about what a waste of human excrement that this “troll” is, the “troll” gets fed precisely what was desired – your emotional response. The result is that the “troll” will fire off another retort or statement that is even more incendiary than the first, expecting an even greater expenditure of emotion from you. And when you respond, in that same fashion again – the cycle begins with even more bombastic rhetoric. I have seen this cycle. Nine Hells, I have even participated in it – from both sides. But long before the internet.
Back in the late 1980s to sometime in the late 1990s, I participated in Bulletin Board Systems, more commonly referred to as “BBSs”. I had my local favorites here in the DFW area. “Pandora’s Box” was an adult-oriented system. Renaissance BBS was when dedicated to discussions of all sorts, and one of the places I “published” my poetry on. Dark Side of the Moon was themed after the Pink Floyd album of the same name but was geared towards philosophical discussions. Malkuth BBS was a Pagan-oriented BBS where the ability to participate was by invitation only. And then there was The Church Mouse. Run by a devout Christian, it was here that I played the role of the troll. I jabbed and punched at various Christians in rolling debates, along with an Atheist and a Chassidic Jew. Some of the discussion was actually serious, but most of the time, I played the role of hit-and-run troll. Looking back, I realize that my interactions were childish, at the very best. All I was trying to do was make someone angry. And when that individual did respond in anger, I felt I had won the battle.
“Won the battle.” What in the Nine Hells did I win? A short emotional response that made me feel more superior to someone else. Last night, in a discussion with a much younger individual (early twenties), he made the remark that he had won plenty of “battles” with folks in a discussion. I asked what he had won. He told me that these folks did not like him, as if this was a trophy to hold. I told him that for me to participate in such antics – there had to be a prize, like money or an actual trophy. of course, I was being sarcastic, but I doubt my point had any application for him. I remember feeling invincible at that age too.
But I actually did win something during all those trolling moments. Like my young friend, I earned the disdain of quite a few people. Furthermore, I assisted those individuals into thinking that every Pagan that they would meet was an angry, combative individual. That all a Pagan could accomplish in a conversation is an angry derisive commentary against their beliefs. Or maybe they merely came away from those thinking that directly of me, and not broad-brushing against all of those who were also Pagans. I certainly hope it was the latter.
All of which leads me back to my semi-constant barrage against the President’s Twitter account. The above tweet that I sent is one of my “cleaner” tweets. I have sent some really nasty tweets to Donald Trump. I’ll admit, it is not one of my more adult things to have done. But sometimes, you have to fire back at someone who is using power provided to him under a social contract such as the Constitution of the United States to harm other people. I cannot drive up to the White House, knock on the front door, and slap the wig off his head while admonishing him for all the hurtful policies he has implemented as “Executive Orders.”
What I can do; however, is to vote in every election. For politicians who will vow to be more socially conscious with what they should be doing. Regardless of the level of the position that they are seeking or even the political party that they are part of. So long as they follow the social contract that is what government is. I can publish blog posts like this, asking others to follow that lead. Ask. Because I do not command you. “I am no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes people come along.” Yes, I am quoting Dennis Leary’s character from the movie “Demolition Man” because it is a direct understanding of what I am and who I lead. I only have one follower – me. Anyone else who chooses to follow my example does so because they decided for themselves to do so.
As one of my fellow Pagan bloggers said quite a while back (I am not sure who or when – just that I read it on a Pagan blogger’s site) “words do matter.” I would also add that what we decide to accomplish with those same words matters as well. Internet trolls only stick around, so long as you feed them. React to them, you provide what they want. They will attack with even more force, more names, more derision…because they want another reaction from you. The idea is to force you off your center and balance so that you flail back constantly. You are not harming their assumed personae. You are just wildly lashing out. And for them, that is laughable. Try not to feed the trolls. It really is not worth your time or effort. Take it from someone who was a troll before there were internet bridges to sit under.