Why Trolls Puzzle Me

Just a quick one today and not gaming related. Still, I think the topic is relevant since we both find ourselves here cruising the blogosphere. I’m lucky enough to have a kind and courteous audience, but we’ve all come across trolls at some point. Trolls are those commenters who pop up now and again to disagree with a blogger and like to throw around insults to support their argument. At times, you might even see where they’re coming from before it goes downhill.

I think it’s reasonable to say that most bloggers probably expect to be disagreed with now and again. Most of those I talk to regularly actually enjoy it; it challenges them and fuels a discussion. A lot of us even talk the Free Speech position and don’t remove even low-balled attacks. That’s because we recognize the value a good comments section adds to the conversations we’re trying to create. But, trolls are another thing entirely.

I don’t understand them. See, if I don’t like what someone is saying on their blog the answer is simple: I stop reading. Maybe that’s because I’m a blogger and I know how much page views and Google rank mean to some people. But, just like in real life, I don’t hang out places that are directly contrary to how I feel. There are cases where I disagree, sure, but the debater in me wants to makes me want to convince the writer they’re wrong. The only way to do that is to show them. If I’m mad, I might even be blunt. But to attack? What’s the point? That’s kind of like going to someone else’s house and calling them an idiot for the color of their shades.

I bring this up because of a recent post over at Tobold’s blog. In it, he opens the door for people to insult him, get their trolling out there, and be done with it. A lot of people rose to the occasion and told him not to worry about it. Others rose in a different way and let loose. I have to admire what he did there. In a single stroke, he clearly identified the commenters whose posts probably aren’t worth reading, nailed them for continuing to hang on his every word (which, to me, says a lot about their personal lives), and let them provide the entertainment while he was away at work. Congrats, seriously, because most of them have no idea what really happened.

See, Tobold gets nailed a lot for having a thin skin. I don’t really see it like that. The guy’s human. If I got as many troll comments as he gets, it would bother me too. Hell, I had a comment recently that I didn’t quite understand and it bothered me. Blogging is an incredibly personal experience. Every post, the author is sharing a piece of himself with his audience. Some people are better at shrugging off criticisms, but most of us are friendly people wanting to be part of a community. Sharing is caring, right? I really don’t think getting annoyed when someone insults you is some personal flaw. When you put yourself out there, you leave yourself open to attack. That doesn’t mean getting insulted is fun or doing the insulting is OK.

I have to admit, it wasn’t even about me, but one of the comments on his post got to me. Commenter Proze made a point to not only criticize Tobold but also Darren of Common Sense Gamer and Andrew of Systemic Babble. Talk about pent up hostility; those two weren’t even involved! What bothered me is that this guy felt the need to dig at two people who, even if we don’t always agree (and we do agree, far more often than not), are nice guys. Normal guys, who choose to put their opinions on the internet about subjects they’re passionate about. I’ve yet to see either of them attack anyone else because, well, they’re nice people. So, unprovoked, Proze feels the need to insult them. You have to shake your head at that.

I imagine trolls in a couple of ways. Either they’re the embittered, button-down, semi-pro who can’t express their frustrations in real life, or they’re that kid who got a “needs improvement” next to social skills on their report card. Either one is honestly pretty sad.

Here’s what I really makes me wonder: at the end of the day we’re all human. The mask of anonymity the internet provides is just that, only a mask to hide the real person behind it. Whether you’re cruel to someone face to face or on the internet I don’t think makes much difference. So, when they look in the mirror and ask themselves “am I a good person,” how does what they say online somehow not count?

Anyways, that’s my thought for today. Have a great weekend all!

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