Anytime I write.
“Hey, I’ve noticed the sky is blue.”
“I like how YOU get to decide the color for us. Maybe let people use their own eyes for a change?”
“Oh, thank you Sir Erudite for so generously bestowing your ancient wisdom upon us. What evidence do you have to support this claim? Blocked and reported.”
“I like how you conveniently left out white. Which means no clouds. No clouds mean no rains. So everyone dies. But we’re already doomed anyway because of the government chemtrails.”
“Actually, the sky isn’t blue. It just appears blue because blue is scattered more than other colors. If you’d bothered taking science, you’d already know that.”
It all began 24 years ago
The internet was a new thing. I was 13, restless, and quite eager to cause trouble.
So I did. I didn’t even know that the thing I was doing was called trolling. The term wasn’t around yet but it definitely applied. I had one go-to move. It worked like a charm. Suckers.
I’d find an online forum. Then I’d create a throwaway account and post some iteration of:
“Hi everyone! I had an important announcement. A study was recently released. It revealed, conclusively, that men who need glasses are inferior and less desirable to women.”
Then, I’d come back the next day, like I was checking on a plant, and relish the angry responses. Apparently, a lot of men in those forums wore glasses. They. Were. Furious.
Then, of course, I’d be jumping up and down, clapping like an excited schoolgirl.
There were no concerns about hurting feelings. I hadn’t even fathomed it. This was just a selfish, trouble-making teenage mind doing its thing.
Trolling appealed to that early teen desire to be independent, to be taken seriously. It also spoke to the frustration of being bound by childhood rules. Online? I had power. I couldn’t be diminished or brushed aside because of my age. I could rattle the emotions of grown men in a few easy keystrokes. I was totally overpowered.
Fortunately, my trolling didn’t get darker than that. I just preyed on insecure dudes who wore glasses. And it ended shortly after it started.
Why? Because fate struck.
I turned 14 and realized I needed glasses.
Fate has a way of boomeranging our actions back at us. We all “get ours” in due time so you’d best behave.
Maybe I’ll soon be stuck in some Black Mirror style episode where I’m trolled by my 13-year-old self through time:
“THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH GLASSES, Xxx96KEANSERNAN96xxX! GIRLS ARE SoOoOoOoO INTO ME.”
In some ways, I’m already in that episode
The boomerang is still hitting. I’ve dealt with trolls far, far more than most ever will. I’ve been trolled from a thousand angles, many of which I didn’t know existed.
I’ve been an influencer on Quora for more than four years. I get lots of attention and meaningless internet points over there. Consequently, I’ve had a target painted on my back for a long, long time. Homeboy has seen some stuff.
It’s rather tragic too. Because I don’t write politics or controversial stuff. I’ve always been more of the make-love-not-war type. Yet, I still get it from dudes (trolls, statistically, are almost always male).
It often comes when you least expect it too. I’ll be writing an uplifting piece, trying to help people out, trying to spread the good vibes.
We’ll be there, celebrating the rich diversity of life, with everyone gathering for a digital hug, appreciating our differences. And then, out of darkness:
“THE HOLOCAUST iS A HOAX! KILL THE JEWS!”
“TEENAGERS SHOULD BE FORCED TO HAVE ABORTIONS!”
Alrighty, then. That’s a block amigo.
It feels like some kid's birthday party that’s going really well, with all the children playing and laughing. The parents are standing around smiling and talking with each other.
Then, that one perpetually drunk uncle shows up. He’s suddenly shouting profanity in front of the kids, stomping balloons, trying to start a fight, all before a cop is called and the party is in the sewers.
That damn Druncle Rick
I can actually remember my first troll. It was October of 2016.
For context, Quora implements a Real Name policy, meaning you must use your day-to-day name. There’s also heavy manual moderation and a strict BNBR policy in place. (BNBR=Be Nice, Be Respectful). Too many violations and you get the ban-hammer.
With all these strong controls in place, you’d think there’d be less harassment. You’d think.
I wrote this positive, joyful dating piece. It was trying to spread good energy and lift morale. Then, some users dropped by and posted a picture of a quite-well-endowed man’s phallus in my comment section. My instinct says it wasn’t it. But if it was, more power to him.
That was my first troll. Easy block. Boom. Gone. And as an aside, you wouldn’t believe how many weiner pics, I, a very heterosexual man, have received during my digital tenure. One even included the caption, “Whatever. You like it. You just don’t know it yet.”
I appreciated his forward and direct style of communication. But I still understand that impulse: to shoot dick pics into the void. And they’re always manipulating camera angles to make themself look like Mandingo:
“Ah yes, feast thy eyes upon my mighty pole. Look up. Watch it rise farrr into the sky. M’lady, do you wish to climb it?
Climb it, my dear. Climb it. Touch the clouds. Make it rain. Stand upon my summit and sway in the wind.”
My dudes be gettin’ weird at times. I have this zero-science theory that testosterone makes some of us fall over the ledge and go nutso.
My second block was because of an argument with a woman who was fuming over essentially nothing. I later realized this argument was about something else going on in her life, as is often the case. So I simply left a final response and went to hell as she instructed.
Then, a day later, I got an email, “Quora Moderation has emailed you…”
It was a BNBR ding.
That’s when I came to learn: you can get moderation dings with incredible ease. And so began my serial killing spree, I mean, serial blocking spree. From then on, there was no more arguing on the internet. There was no point in getting pointless moderation dings.
If I couldn’t reply to their hostile message honestly without risking a ding, or without seeming agitated, they got the block, or “the B” as I call it.
Initially, I felt bad for blocking. Eventually, I smiled with flames dancing in my eyes. You can’t let people get to you online. Internet folk skew agitated. Also, those above images are among the tamest messages I’ve received. I used to save them all in a folder until I got bored of rows of profanity.
Oh yes, here’s a colorful one. There was an anonymous troll I blocked for racist language. Later, he popped up in the feed with this whole hit piece about me wrote me. In it, he said that, because I’d blocked him, I was a dictator who was suppressing free speech. And ended it with this fantastic photoshop.
It was the sweetest thing a troll ever did. “F-f-fo-fo-fo me?”
Remember folks. Don’t feed the trolls. If you engage with them or argue, you are only feeding their hunger for attention. And even worse, you’re emboldening them to continue trolling. Getting a reaction is all they ever wanted.
Take it from a former troll. The most best thing you can do is block them and move on. Trolls wither under a lack of attention.
Your Grand and Glorious Leader.