Dear Troll…

Dear Troll,

Yes, yes, you. No, I know. You don’t think you’re a troll. Trolls are other people.

But as a good friend once told a psychopath he met, “You know, I’ve never met a psychopath who realized that they’re a psychopath.”

Same as trolls. Well, actually, that’s not true. I have a cousin who trolls. He goes online onto sensitive stories and says outrageous things just to stir things up. Then he sits back, watches and laughs. And laughs. He plays the troll.

I disagree with his behavior, but he’s different than you.

Your posts are more angry. Bitter. Eager to pick a fight. Over what? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. There’s always something, isn’t there – something that justifies your behavior?

My father-in-law was a sports columnist at the Tribune who wrote about the outdoors. He was an ethical hunter, but you know, that’s an oxymoron for haters of hunters.

He had a theory, that trolls were people who had been hurt more deeply than they realized. Perhaps they were ignored or mistreated by an authority figure. Perhaps they feel powerless or marginalized in our culture. Venting could be a form of lashing out, but a cry for help too.

I’m really very sorry. I honestly hope you get help.

Hurt people hurt people.

I used to fear trolls. Four years ago, my fear almost kept me from blogging at the Chicago Tribune. I didn’t want to deal. I knew there would be people who would take things wildly out of context to create false narratives out of thin air. But since I don’t give fear control of my life, I took the plunge.

As it turns out, my fears were largely misplaced. It did happen, but it took years. A few nasty comments here and there, but that’s expected. The first real time was with Romenesko, so I’m not sure if that counts.

I think a lot of very smart and creative people have a fear of dealing with trolls. It has a chilling effect on discourse on the internet. I think the level of discourse on race for example, would be raised if there were more people on both sides who would dial it back online.

I know a lot of journalists and bloggers have a fear and loathing of trolls. Creative types, too, are a little sensitive. Even news organizations are skittish about them. Many have moved over to a system of Facebook commenting to reduce trollishness.

It’s bad for the news business. Users were rating the experience of reading news online with low marks because of what they saw on comment boards. Ironically, I’ll bet few trolls actually read through entire articles before launching their missiles in the comments.

I know you have a perspective to be heard, but am I the best person to attack? I don’t have the kind of power to make things better for you, if that’s what you really care about.

A lot of people think that change in society comes from stamping out discourse and shaming people into submission. Social media reminds me of the Roman Coliseum sometimes. You might be OK with that.

That’s not the world I want to live in.

You can continue being a troll. It’s a free country.

I just don’t need to hear it on social media. My time on this Earth is short and I don’t think an argument with me will bring us any more of the joy we both need.

Facebook even measured and found that negative posts begat negative posts.

Let’s call it “Viral Negativity”.

Studies show negativity is bad for your health. So let me do something that will help both of us.

Consider yourself blocked, dropped, or scientifically speaking, isolated. We’re done for now.

It’s good for our long-term well being. Maybe one day you’ll understand this, if you don’t get enraged at being cut-off.

But if you write a nice make-up letter and send through a friend, I’m happy to forgive and stay connected.

That’s the world I want to live in.


Alex Garcia

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