You Might Be a Troll If…

…you register for a free account on a website you don’t regularly read because you want to post negative comments on an article about abortion, gay rights, police brutality, or another hot button topic. If you left feedback on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for someone you don’t know disparaging that person’s ideas, opinions, creative works, or personhood, you might be a troll. You might be a troll if you are a member of a privileged group complaining of “reverse discrimination” or the infringement on your right to be a douche-nozzle. Or, you might just be an @$$hole with an opinion. What’s the old joke about what everyone has? Oh yeah, those two things.

I read an article this morning about two women who’d posted two photos of themselves via their Instagram account. The photos were their pregnancy announcements for their friends and family. In the photos the two women posed identically, except they switched places with each other from one to the next to highlight the baby belly of the one that was expecting. They now have two children together, and their family photos are as beautiful as any I’ve ever seen. For whatever reason, some troll decided to muck up an exquisite series of snapshots (of total strangers) by posting a bunch of rude and ignorant comments about the women’s sexual orientation. What are you doing, troll? How is this effective discourse? Are you operating under the misguided belief that your grammatically incorrect sentences will convince this family to disband? I have some news for you: It won’t and you are a troll. Also, I think you may be a graduate of the Westboro Baptist Church school of effecting social change. This is not an accredited institution.

I’m not new to the internet. In fact, I am a member of the www old guard. I’ve had the same email address for fifteen years. I participated in the earliest iterations of online communities and have had plenty of experiences with trolls. It’s actually interesting how much things stay the same over time. We may have changed the rules for web sites, social media, and YouTube celebrity status since the early days of hard coding JavaScript to make a button wiggle, but it seems the trolls are still struggling to learn the basic rules of grammar and netiquette. Remember hard coding JavaScript into your Angelfire-hosted Xena: Warrior Princess fan website to make Xena’s chakram spin? Good times.

So, yes, my experience with trolls goes back a long way. In all honesty, today’s internet trolls are yesterday’s high school bullies, and I’ve learned a lot about dealing with bullies since high school (but that’s a topic for another day. Look for my tell-all memoir in a bookstore near you.) What’s interesting to note is that trolls haven’t really evolved much since their high school bullying days. They’re still jerks who think that the person with the loudest, cruelest taunt is the winner. Winner of what, I’m not sure.  Mostly, just making people feel bad, I guess. Good job, bully-troll! That’s a feat worth being remembered for.  I am going to have a custom trophy made in the shape of a golden #1 engraved with the text “Most Victims in Therapy.” I will take a picture of this trophy and post it in reply to the comments of people who say things like “Eww, faggiots. Stop shoving you’re homo lifestyle in my face.” Also, the offensive slur you were looking for there was “dyke” not “faggot.” At least have some standards in your own hate speech. 

Since the very earliest interactions on the internet, trolls have had these same kinds of grammar and mechanical problems with their attacks. You’d think they’d compare notes after all these years and correct some of the grosser errors. You're, your, and yore are not interchangeable. I question your ethos when you make these kinds of elementary school mistakes. I will say one thing for the Westboro Baptist Church nutjobs: They appear to proofread their crazy. Their signage sticks to small words they know how to spell.

In summation, you might be a troll if you are green, wart-covered, and live under a bridge asking unwary travelers trivia questions in exchange for safe passage. This is what I imagine internet trolls actually look like anyway.