TROLLS ON THE INTERNET

We blog for a variety of personal reasons. Some of us want freedom — to express our art and opinions. Most of us want a connection to the larger world, to join our voices with others in support or opposition to ideas and events. For me, the primary reason I wanted a site was to own a piece of cyber turf where I felt safe to be myself.

I had been moderately active on social media for a while before I began blogging. I had Flickr and Facebook accounts and a second Facebook page dedicated to antique dolls. I was active on a number of photography forums. I wrote reviews on Amazon.

From these places, I was driven out by trolls. On one photography forum, I was hounded until I resigned … and then (the same?) trolls found me on Amazon.

TROLLS - John_Bauer_1915

There’s nothing exceptional about my experiences because I don’t know anyone who has been active on public forums who has not been attacked.

The trolls are usually anonymous, but always vicious. They use fake names. Why do they pick on some people and not others? Who knows. You’d have to get into their heads to figure it out. It has happened to so many people, from well-known authors to folks like me — perhaps the attacks are random. Are these the schoolyard bullies of our childhood, using computers instead of fists?

The trolls are forever searching for new victims, seeking vulnerable people to hurt.

About a year ago, I reviewed a book on Amazon. I thought it was racist and said so. I got so slammed by trolls who clearly hadn’t even read the book, whose only goal was to “get me,” I gave up. I took the review down. I know defeat when I see it staring me in the face.

The trolls were banned eventually (I was not their only victim), but Amazon (and other sites) are often slow to deal with cyber bullies and trolls. I suspect (but can’t prove) they don’t necessarily mind a little ugliness, if it keeps people interested, reading reviews, commenting. Buying stuff.

I needed a safe place where I could play by my rules, have a civil environment where we treat each other with a modicum of respect. Without name-calling. I was tired of being bullied, picked on or taunted.

Authors are frequent targets of cyber attacks. Writers are sensitive. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been doing it. Every piece we publish is our baby and that makes us ideal targets for cyber bullies. We put ourselves out there with a target painted on our foreheads. It makes trolls very happy. If we didn’t exist, they would have to invent us.

Trolls love causing pain. The more misery they cause, the happier they are. There’s no effective way to fight them. After all, we live in a “free” society where everyone is supposedly “entitled” to an opinion. To the best of my understanding, no one is “entitled” to an opinion. Our laws say we can’t stop you speaking your mind — no matter how baseless, ignorant, cruel or illiterate. But protection under law isn’t an entitlement, nor does any opinion automatically have value.

Most trolling comments aren’t opinions. Just meanness. They don’t represent a position, nor are they part of a disagreement between opposing viewpoints. Their intent is to spread ill-will and hurt people. Nothing more.

In this place, my space — I’m the Queen. I make the rules and enforce them. I try to be fair, but in the end, I decide what’s fair. This is not a public forum. Want a free-for-all, maybe provoke a fight? Go join the mobs on Facebook. In this place, I will protect any guest who comments and I will protect myself. Because finally, I can!

Serendipity is a troll-free zone.