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.



Categories: Anecdote, Blogging

Tags: , , , , , ,

54 replies

  1. You said: “In this place, my space — I’m the Queen. I make the rules and enforce them.” Hear, hear!

    I may even start my own blog! I could be King! Except I’d have to maintain it. Hmmm.

    boB (The Philistine)

    We have got to stop confusing Jesus Christ with the church, and remember that the church is just a building. ……Nephoske Residue

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    • YOU were the one who got me interested in blogging in the first place! I heard it from you and looked it up. It was a new word. You are one hell of a writer. You should write where someone can actually READ it. You want to be a write on mine? I could use some more writers, especially with all this medical crapola coming up. I can just designate you an editor and you can write you heart out! A ready-made audience. They would LOVE you. I already do.

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  2. I haven’t had experience with trolls; if I did, I think I would just delete, but I would feel bad cos I always want everyone to love me, right?

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    • I think we all crave The Love … it’s one of the secret guilty reasons we blog … and when people say rotten things about us and/or our work, it makes us feel bad. Which is the whole point of the exercise, I guess.

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  3. Mean people suck. Who gets pleasure from causing other people pain or harm? I have read so much about this happening to others, who write about controversial topics or speak their opinion honestly. Personally, I believe everyone should be treated with respect, even when you do not agree with the other person’s point of view. But, when people can’t be civilized and polite, then… It is nice to be the Queen, where you can rule your part of the world any way you want.

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    • Our society seems to be going through a very uncivil period. Simple good manners are being replaced by … I dont’ … rudeness? A lack of sensitivity to others? Whatever, it makes the internet a perilous place for us.

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  4. Great post and terrific comments. I know you’ve heard me say this before but…If you are any kind of public figure, including a blogger icon…you’ll be targeted by trolls. Goes with the territory. Marine up, Probie!

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  5. Your writing and your attitude are exactly why I enjoy coming here.

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  6. I took a constitutional law class once as an elective. While we were talking about the First Amendment, the teacher said “Unfortunately, the First Amendment also protects peoples’ right to be assholes.” This post reminded me of that.

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  7. I wrote ONE review on IMDB about that movie The Road and I got drilled by people who disagreed with me and thought I was stupid so I never went back. The other day someone came on to my place here and called me the C word but I thought it was pretty funny so I approved it.

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    • I was SURE I answered you, but I can’t find the answer so maybe I didn’t. I’m doing painkillers this week and my brains is soft and mushy. I got into it about a book that really WAS racist … the kind of book parlor liberals write which are so breathtakingly insensitive you just know they’ve never actually had a friend who wasn’t white and middle class. In the book, every time he referred to a person of color, he referred to their skin color too … “Tears rolled down his old black cheeks.” “Her beautiful black skin gleamed in the sun.” You get the drift. I ran it past my husband’s “racial slur sniffer” just to make sure. There was this gang of Texan cyber thugs who just kept calling me names. It got uglier and uglier till I took the review down. From Amazon only. It’s still up on Goodreads where there seems to be a lower threshold of tolerance for trolls. I’m much less naive, more wary about saying anything controversial on Amazon, though I am never sure what someone will deem controversial. I stirred up (really!) a ton of rancor by reviewing a book on Alexander Hamilton Vs. Thomas Jefferson. At least that was rancor using full sentences and the insults were much more literate than the usual 4-letter stuff.

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  8. Don’t feed the troll and they will move on usually. It is quite amazing how ugly some people get when they are anonymous. I used to help people with some of these issues. These companies claim 1st amendment rights. I found the best way to deal with them is to just not read them. Most other people can see it as it is.

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    • I delete them and ban them from my site (and sight). I can’t get pissed off at what I don’t see — once a troll, always a troll. I’m easily hurt and unfortunately, my temper — usually under control — tends to snap if you push the right buttons. So for me, yeah, out of sight really IS the best way. You can’t reason with them because they don’t want a dialogue. They are just looking to cause trouble.

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  9. Amen and hail to the Queen!

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  10. It’s really not much of a good thing to let trolls get to you. That’s kinda the idea. It’s not that trolls particularly dislike you, it’s just that it’s funny to see people react to being annoyed. I think I’m gonna write my own article about trolls today, from a troll’s standpoint. 🙂 I’ve done my share of trolling in my day.

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    • I’d be very interested to see it. I’ve never understood why people do it. It causes so much grief.

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      • And I would never troll a page where somebody posts art, or takes any real pride in. You know what I mean? Maybe you don’t.
        A lot of the time, people get really upset over trolls on really unimportant and trivial things (such as saying “no, sonik iz better den mario” in a Super Mario forum and then watching the Mario fanboys flood in with their angry, furious, livid, just beyond ridiculous comments about how untrue and horrid my comment was), then sometimes it can really shine a light on how argumentative, grumpy and just plain bitchy people can be. I wouldn’t do it to a point where it actually makes somebody upset about themselves, and who they are, because nobody deserves that. It’s never personal. For me, anyway.

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  11. Trolling is rampant on the internet simply because people can do and say things (that they wouldn’t have the nerve or courage to say another persons face) and get away with it. Therefore such disgusting behaviour is far more common on the Net than we encounter nearly anywhere else – and will continue until we somehow find a way to make such people accountable.
    Imagine a Troll Police Force. It would be VERY large.

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  12. I have yet to encounter any trolls thank goodness, though I am not all that active on social media. At least on WordPress we can delete comments from such maladjusted people – I’m sure that sooner or later they will find me. Trolls are cunning like that.

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  13. Thank goodness we can delete those kinds of comments.

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    • And ban the people who make them. You have NO idea the deep satisfaction I get from occasionally banning someone from my site. God, I wish I’d had this available in high school … except I would have banned them from my sight (punny, eh?). I feel like Arnold Schwarznegger when I click that key on the computer. Yay. I’ve BANNED you! Cross my threshold and I blow you to kingdom come!

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  14. Talking of Amazon, I have gotten two 1-star reviews recently for my novel. It’s OK if people don’t like the book. Every one gets a bad review and people’s tastes are different. But…. these 1-star reviewers don’t just say they don’t like the book. They both say that they didn’t finish it in fact. Read the first chapter and the writing was soooo bad I had to stop reading. Oh this book should never have been published or at least should have been edited (it was). I had to post this crappy review because the author had all his friends post gushy 5-star reviews and no one in their right mind would give this 5-stars (Actually, there are some 20+ 5 and 4 star reviews – I know 5 or so of these reviewers – the rest are simply people who read the book). These are not so much reviews as personal vendetta’s – as if no one should be allowed to write but a select few and if you dare then they will follow you giving you bad reviews everywhere (yep – across multiple sites). I don’t really know what’s wrong with such people and yes, it’s very hurtful because they make it a personal and vindictive vendetta against you. I think such people are simply a**holes with nothing better to do frankly. I’d like to see them actually try to write a book!

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    • I’ve heard this from a bunch of different authors and in a small way, experienced it myself. A lot of people like to think “Authors” are special people, removed from the fray, above it all. They really don’t get that we’re just people who wrote something and against all odds, got it published. And we are really invested in our work. We aren’t neutral or dispassionate, so when you attack our “babies,” you attack us. It’s personal and very hurtful. A bunch of trolls have discovered authors, public figures that we are, make perfect targets to aim barbs at. We are sensitive, literate and will stupidly try to reason with people who have no interest in being reasonable. I think we provide a lot of great amusement for these assholes.

      Thank god for the automatic four and five star bestowers who — exactly the opposite of the trolls — can’t bear the idea of saying something bad about a book 🙂 They almost make up for the others.

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  15. Brilliant, Marilyn – jolly well said, and by god it needed saying. Cyber bullying is despicable and cowardly – and the effective condoning of it (because it creates more views, and thus, I suspect, more money) is beyond belief. I have shared this because I think as many people as possible should read it. xxx

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    • One of the things I liked about your piece the other day was that you tried — with a surprising degree of success — to get inside the heads of “those people.” I’ve always tried to avoid doing that because I’m not sure I really want to know. They are so ugly … give me the shivers!

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      • I have also had a Troll rant today (inspired by yours – and have mentioned that in my piece!) – a scathing mixture of anger and black humour. My feeling is that they are inadequate, seething, vengeful and envious – and the whole thing is a bloody awful indictment of certain societal mores (or should that be ‘morons’?). Keep ’em coming! xxx

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        • I seem to have struck a nerve. I’m not surprised. I meant it when I said my experience is not rare or unique. Almost everyone who has spend any time in the cyber world has gotten slammed, often more than once and in more than one venue. I stick close to home (here) now. Posts on FB are a pretty picture and an innocuous smiley comment. I’m not up for a brawl. I’m not a good brawler. Too emotional! After I get through answering email, of which I seem to have tons today I get over to your site and do some reading. You always make me laugh or think or cry 🙂

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  16. Well, Marilyn, the world is filled with mean-spirited trolls, unfortunately. I started a blog for the same reasons that you did. I also used to have a Facebook page (for years). WordPress has a niche for everybody. And, we can control what we see and what we tolerate. Yes! My kinda, neighborhood. Besides, I can find intelligent life on earth… Right here. 😉

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    • The ability to lock my door to people who bother me is … I don’t have enough words to say how important it is to me. I know that I’m perhaps being naive in thinking they can’t get me, but at least they can’t get to me as easier as they used to. And I do love my online friends. YOu guys make me feel loved, which is more than I can say for my human family.

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  17. Trolls are a waste of time. Reading them, replying to them, etc. The more we engage, the more they like it, IMO, and the more we ignore them the sooner they vanish to dangle bait I. Easier waters. So sorry you have suffered so with the unfairness around your book. If you run into them again, let me at them. Please. I have a lot of unexpressed hostility I need to vent and trolls are the only critters I think worthy of such a good dump. Of course, I would still be wasting keystrokes. But at least you could read the exchanges and be amused by my creativity. Lol. Hugs, happy writing to you ever more.

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  18. I don’t even notice when someone calls me names anymore- they don’t know me personally so what can they say that will really upset me? (unlike Facebook- I never get in fights there- those people have actual dirt on me). But it does get me when people are willfully misrepresenting what I wrote. Occasionally they goad me into saying something I regret later and that burns. I should listen to Jay Z (who didn’t create it, but I like his wording) “a wise man said don’t argue with fools, cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who”

    Like

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