The Rise of the Trolls
As internet usage increases, so does the number of trolling comments
A while ago, I stopped reading the majority of the comments left on my work. It’s not that I don’t care what others have to say, and it’s not that I’m not interested in reading what others think.
I’ve just found that it’s safer not to know.
When I first started writing, I was shocked by the hatred left on some of my articles. In all of my life, I couldn’t imagine speaking to someone the way some of those commenters spoke to me.
I’d block these individuals, but their comments would sit with me, and I couldn’t shake them easily. So eventually, I just stopped reading them.
I haven’t received much for comments lately, because I haven’t been writing much since my self-isolation began. But, I have been reading my colleagues’ articles, and I’ve been reading their comments sections too — it’s been hard to stomach.
First, there was the commenter that declared that “sexual abuse victims should be ashamed of themselves.”
Ashamed of themselves for what, exactly, I’m unsure. I reported the comment and tried not to throw up. Of course, the only person who should feel ashamed here would be the commenter. Ashamed doesn’t even begin to cover what this person should feel.
Then, there was the commenter who told a rape victim that her fear was irrational and that she had to move on with her life.
“Your fear isn’t even logical,” he wrote. “It’s offending me on an intellectual level.”
Isn’t the potential irrationality of emotions and feelings just common knowledge? They’re not based on logic. They’re feelings. It seems that someone who deems himself “intellectual” would understand this, on the most basic of levels.
Of course — her fear wasn’t irrational — she’s suffering from PTSD for a reason.
There was the commenter that wrote that “all Christians are Trump-puppets and that no one should brag about being a Christian.”
The author hadn’t been bragging; she had simply noted in her piece that she held Christian values.
I think we can all agree that some Christians are “Trump-puppets.” I think we can also all agree that some Christians are not. Blanket statements are drenched in poison. End of story.
These are only a few of the horrifying comments that I saw.
“Good men are losing their jobs, and you still have yours, so what are you complaining about? Women should be fired first,” wrote a troll on a woman’s piece about the challenges of working in a hospital right now.
“Finally, women are forced back into the kitchen,” someone else wrote on a woman’s piece about being home with her children while trying to work at the same time.
“It’s absolutely false that domestic violence rates are on the rise,” wrote another. “Women are always faking this shit for attention.”
I could go on. I could continue to list the horrible comments I saw, but I don’t want to be writing this piece for 12 more hours. Suffice it to say, that there are many more garbage statements out there, just waiting to cause someone pain.
“Have you noticed an increase in trolling?” one of my friends asked me the other day. “I feel like I’m seeing a lot more of it, particularly on women’s writing.”
“I have definitely noticed that,” I told her.
The negative and hateful comments have increased in number greatly since the quarantine began.
Is the uptick in trolling due to an increase in time?
Sure, many of us are home right now. Many of us are home, doing little but sitting in front of our computers, reading and working. Is it boredom that is driving some people to meanness?
“It’s nice to finally have the time to share my thoughts,” one troll commented when someone asked him why he was behaving the way that he was.
It’s nice to finally have the time…to be mean? Weird flex, but okay.
Is the uptick in trolling due to an uptick in misery?
The old adage says, “Misery loves company.” For whatever reason, it is human nature to try to bring others down to our level when we’re feeling especially low — and many of us are feeling especially low right now.
There are men who have never stopped trying to bring women down — even when things are going well — so it does stand to reason that now that things are going poorly, those men would increase their hate output as an outlet for their own insecurities.
Of course, this is counterintuitive — spreading joy is a much greater mood-booster than spreading misery — but still, it seems to be a subliminal need to cause pain when in pain.
Is the uptick in trolling due to an elevated level of exasperation?
I admit, I too am finding myself increasingly snappish right now. I’m not letting it out by writing hateful and sexist comments on the work of others — but I am feeling a bit more easily triggered. This increase in tension manifests differently for everyone — maybe for some, it manifests in trolling?
I don’t know.
Why, in a time like this, when people are hurting, would anyone seek to pile on to that hurt? Universally, we’re frustrated. Universally, we’re uneasy.
While I’m not surprised that this quarantine has seen a rise in trolling, I am still baffled as to why that is, and I feel compelled to try to reverse the cycle.
I rarely write comments on the things I read, but I’ve been trying to spread positivity where I can by showing appreciation for the pieces I’ve really enjoyed. I know many other writers and readers who are doing the same.
If you feel compelled to write a comment, why not write a kind one? If you can’t write a kind one, why not skip writing one at all?
It seems like we could all use a bit more courtesy right now, no?