I’ve had the hardest time putting this post into words. So many thoughts floating around from the readings and class and I am just unsure if I want to share about this topic. I think my uncertainty comes from not being able to understand why an internet troll would feel the need to degrade and/or berate someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I also don’t understand how or why someone would do this off the internet as well but it happens. So what should we do about it? Or should we do anything?
I am all for everyone having an opinion and good conversation around differences in an opinion. However, I do feel that such a conversation needs to remain neutral and about the facts. Leave the personal out of it, walk away from the conversation with a mutual respect of each other’s opinions. This certainly isn’t always easy but it’s a choice when someone decides to get personal and attack someone else. I am sure we’ve all been on both sides of this situation, myself included and have learned a lesson or two from the experience.
The internet provides us with online spaces to join communities and conversations around pretty much any topic we could dream up. We can connect with someone from across the world in a matter of seconds. We can also choose to disconnect from someone that quickly as well. Or can we?
Did you know there is a map online titled Geography of Hate ? This map tracks hateful tweets across the United States. You can decide if you want see where homophobic, racist or tweets about disabilities are made. I was just floored that this was actually a thing. Naive you might say? Yes probably, but why does this even need to exist?
I am torn between two sides of connecting online. On one hand we can gain knowledge, ask questions, build communities of support and create change.
Then there is the other side…
We can choose to join a community perhaps because we want to learn something, are needing support, have something to share or wanting to feel connected but sometimes the opinions one might have or choices made could give members of that community a reason (that they feel is warranted) to turn on you very quickly and you might never be able to stop or walk away. Lives have been changed and some ended because of online trolling. Take for example Amanda Todd . Before this week I knew the name but none of the details. If you haven’t heard her story you need to.
This week I lost track of how many stories around experiences with internet trolls I have read. So many of the stories were filled with language and content that I don’t know I feel comfortable sharing in this space but a quick google search and you’ll be sure to find more than you could imagine. Each time I read of someones experience I couldn’t help but think about why the troll would want to do such a thing? I wondered about what was so terrible in their own lives that would make them want to hurt and harass others.? Are they running from something or are they simply a dark, mean person?
The wide variety or trolls, bullies, racists and misogynists online is endless. It would be easy to say “stop feeding the trolls” and move on but I don’t think that’s going to stop anything. It took me thinking about each side of the situation and trying to gain an understanding of the victim and the troll. In my search to gain a better understanding of online trolling I can across of an account with an online troll written by Lindy West – What happened when I confronted my cruelest troll. In this post she shares about her experience with a troll who decided to get back at her by creating a twitter account for her deceased father. How she handled this was interesting. There are parts to each side that I don’t understand but I don’t think adding to the conversation and fueling it makes anything better. Perhaps by having conversations, trying to understand and sharing with one another we might begin to change the nature of Online Harassment.
Confession: I had originally titled this post Stop Feeding the Trolls…