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Trolling for Attention

Or: Your Words Have Power

As a rule, I don’t save hate mail. Letters, emails, tweets, private messages and the like are all files in the circular bin. That’s the trash can, folks. The point is, while I dwell on my hate-missives as much as the next person with a healthy ego, I don’t save them. Sometimes I regret this, like when I think I should write a book about how these idiots harass and bully people, but really, at the end of the day, I want to wave my friends over and go ‘Read this! No, really! She’s serious!’ Thus this post is a little serious.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve been subjected to more trolls and haters than I could count. The Internet is permanently a high school lunch room, where people look down on you for no discernible reason, and shun you for even less understandable ones. It’s petty, vindictive, and because it’s on the Internet and you can’t see them, they feel it’s okay to say things they’d never consider saying to your face.

I feel the worst part is that since it’s the Internet, some people in the physical world (like your office) think that you’re over-reacting if you get hurt. I mean, have you ever considered telling your boss “I’m sorry, I’m having a bad day because last night someone online called me a ‘man faced dyke.'” And yes, that’s something I’ve been called. People seem to think that pain caused online isn’t real. They’re wrong.

First and foremost, if you’ve been attacked online, those feelings are ‘real.’ I don’t call them ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ worlds, I call them ‘virtual’ and ‘physical’ for that reason alone. The virtual world, as fake as it can be, hurts you just as much as the physical world when someone’s a dick to you. Sadly, it took us humans a long time to understand that name-calling was as hurtful as a black eye, and I imagine it’ll be a while before people realize that virtual name calling is just as bad.

That said, we’re all going to deal with this, sooner or later. The first time, usually when we’re in pre-school and someone calls us a ‘poopie head’ is soul crushing. We’re children and have no idea what to do when someone’s being mean to us. I’d love to say it gets easier to deal with as you get older, but really what you get to is a point where you realize… they’re fucking idiots.

Seriously. If someone’s devolved to false accusations and name calling, there is nothing you can do to get a clue in their vacuous little brains. Real world example time. Today I was accused of sending someone death threats after I put them on a Twitter list of ‘hater.’ I use the list to keep track of everyone who’s attacked me on Twitter and it used to have a lot of people on it, but over time most of them have apologized and grown up a little. Right now, the one person left on the list (and yes, it’s a public list, I want people to be publicly shamed for their idiocy) decided to start bullying me again.

Now, I could block this person pretty easily, but I chose not to because that would just inspire her to make another account to use to harass me. And, truth be told, I find it pretty funny. I mean, I take what I do seriously because it deserves that level of attention. That doesn’t mean I give it the level of gravitas it deserves all the time (I used to sing ‘Oops I did it again’ when cleaning someone’s PC of a virus for the 10th time), but it does mean that when I commit to doing a thing, I give it the attention it warrants.

People tell me to ‘grow up’ or stop wasting my time, or a variety of that. They say I take my fandom too seriously — usually that comes when I tell them their rude comments aren’t welcome. And I let them. I don’t stop people from saying what they want on other sites, though I reserve the right to delete their posts from my sites.

Before everyone runs up to tell me it’s okay, that I’m an idiot for taking all this too seriously, I don’t really mind physical or virtual insults. I have a very healthy ego, and I’m pretty consistent when I tell people ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ in both the physical and virtual worlds. I don’t dwell ‘too much’ on these things, I dwell enough to try and learn from them. Do they have some measure of validity in the noise, or is it just ranting? Are there grounds for their vitriol, or are they just jerking off? I take the trolls and learn about myself from them.

Here’s how I handle trolls:
If they’re on my website, I delete their post and, if I think they’re a real person, email them and tell them why. I usually include a copy of their post and explain why I don’t want it on my sites. Sometimes this works, but most often people respond with more vitriol and hate, so I put their email, ID and IP in my moderation filter. Going forward, every post they make on my sites has to be approved before it shows up. If they escalate their hate-filled speech, I block them entirely and have any emails sent to the trash, unread. I no longer have to deal with them and I feel better.

If they’re on another site, I check the rules. Are they acting outside the rules? If so, yes, I report them. I don’t reply, I just report. If they’re acting within the rules, can I ignore them? Some forums, for example, have an ignore button. I use it. On places like Twitter and FaceBook, I use the block button and toss them out of my life. If I reply, I make sure I’m polite. I don’t argue, I don’t point out their fallacies. I do make careful use of larger words and take pains to double and triple check my grammar usage. Why? Because I want to be able to look back and go ‘I was a mature smart ass to the troll.’

It may not be the most honorable goal, but it’s mine. I never said I was perfect.

What I never do is try to reason or argue point-for-point with them. It’s, as my Southern in-laws say, like trying to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. They won’t learn to act like a mature, thinking, reasoning person until they’re ready, and while they desperately need to hear what I would say, they would never listen to it. It would go in one ear and out the other. You have to get used to saying ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ and move on with your life because, frankly, they’re never going to get it.

So while I don’t keep logs or emails of these things, when someone does it in a public and open venue, I see no problem in sharing with you all just what sort of stupid I deal with in my free time. After all, I found it pretty funny. I give you Conversations between @L0rryP0r (Lauren Reeser) and @jorjafoxonline (Jorja Fox: Online) on Twitter (via Bettween)

I’m @jorjafoxonline.