What is wrong with people do you think? Why do so many ‘Trolls’ exist? If we met them in the street, would we know that they had some personality disorder? That they had failed to take their medication that day? That they were close to a full mental breakdown? Or do they in fact work in our offices, at the next desk to us? Fine by day, completely bonkers the moment they get in front of that keyboard at night? Is it stress, do you think? The sheer pressure of modern life? That really they’re apparently normal, coping with life, but inside they’re a seething mass of rage, a maelstrom of mad, disjointed thoughts? Ready to snap? Go ‘postal’ if just one more small obstacle gets in their way? What do you think?…because I’m genuinely intrigued.
I received a series of emails recently via another website that I run – and the person sending them (named ‘Christopher’) screamed and yelled at me in the !! LARGEST! POSSIBLE! TYPE! !! (Yes, it was the usual Troll format – embellished with plenty of emboldening and exclamation marks). They ‘informed’ me of various inaccuracies in the information on a single page of my site. Seriously, it was as though I was confronted with a screaming toddler in a terrible tantrum, writhing on my living room floor. I toyed with whether to respond at all because if this person is a genuine nutter I really don’t need to be dealing with that right now. Then I thought that I should afford him the benefit of the doubt and I responded as below (only, as it seemed appropriate, I also did so in the largest possible type):
I acknowledge receipt of your emails. Do you use some special kind of keyboard that only allows you to type a few words at a time? I only ask because I wondered why it was necessary to send me a whole series of short notes.
I shall assume that you have some kind of disability or physical impairment and that you are not, in fact, being so rude as to yell at me – hence the very large text of my response here.
If you look again at my site you will see that I clearly state on the ‘Home’ page that it is a hobby site of mine. It also clearly states that it was last updated in August of 2008. Maybe I should have put all that in larger type and in capital letters, so that people such as yourself would be able to see and therefore understand that, as a hobby site, I don’t always have the time to keep the information contained therein right up to date.
Yes I did get a response. Why d’you ask? I’ve cut and pasted it, ‘as is’ here:
Well, at least you replied, now spend time getting your HOBBY up to date.
Yes I do have a disability, thanks you for mocking it!
Angelcel to Christopher:
Christopher – me too. Which is why I find it difficult to keep up with my hobby and why I found your emails unnecessarily abrasive in tone.
He’s gone away, for the time being. Maybe he’s just taking time to re-group and then attack me again. What I’m hoping, however, is that our little exchange will make him think twice in future before blustering into someone’s home, spitting venom like some kind of Benzedrine puff adder.
The internet seems to have encouraged this kind of behaviour. Most of us still don’t resort to yelling and screaming at one another in the street at the drop of a hat (thank goodness), so the closest equivalent to this is probably nuisance phone calls, which are also, thankfully, a rarity. Yet the prevalence of Trolls on the internet seems to be on the increase. Why?
You’ll have gathered by now that, yes, he annoyed me, but that I’m also a very old-fashioned type of a girl, still fondly holding on to the idea that if we all treat each other as we would like to be treated then the world can and will be a better place. My husband, on the other hand, who deals with rude numbskulls way too often in everyday business, takes a slightly different approach. I have to tell you that when I showed him the series of original emails he was quite adamant that if I felt the need to respond at all then the best wording would be:
Fuck Off. Strong letter to follow.
His approach does have the merit of simplicity. Maybe he has a point.