The Secret Life of a Troll

No, this isn’t some admission to an online alter ego where I go about slaying peoples confidence and self-esteem, this is some other kind of admission. One of the scary things about putting your work ‘out there’ wherever ‘there’ may be, is that you never really know where it’s going to end up, or who with.

That fear has held me back, it’s scary, actually writing stuff that other people will read and judge. What if some berk picks up on your stuff and starts targeting you, slashing your confidence and self-esteem like you’re in some kind of wordy zombie apocalypse. Or what if their genuine attempts at being constructive are actually quite harmful?

Now obviously I’m no celebrity and am unlikely to draw a picture let alone a crowd so the stakes aren’t that high in terms of cyberbully rankings but it’s a fear that has until now added to my reluctance to put myself out there. But there does come a point when you can’t keep your verbal diarrhoea in any more, you have to let it out and you have to flush!

So in order to mentally put things into perspective I’ve imagined what the life of an online troll might be like, partly in an effort to make sense of why people do it but also to belittle it (in my mind anyway), to diffuse it and not give it the power or time of day that the troll apparently thrives off.

In my head, I have a vision of troll and it goes like this…

Troll wakes up probably around lunch time as he’s tired from all of the last nights trolling about. He has a big stretch and yawn, his neck aches because it’s hard sleeping with a hunched back.

His eyes are squinty because staring at computer screen all day can do that to a face, plus a face like an old man sucking a lemon is a prerequisite for the important job of trolling.

The troll lumbers out of bed, steadying himself with his club and heads to the bathroom where a splash of water to the face does nothing to improve matters.

Next, it’s downstairs for a cup of tea, you can’t begrudge anyone starting their day with a good brew.

It picks its nose and eats it, that’s breakfast sorted. Now to rub two sticks together and fire up the laptop to prowl the web for anyone who’s not a troll and therefore a target. The troll’s ego needs to be fed.

Troll to a random online stranger: ‘Oi, you! You’re shit, your jokes are crap and I hope you die!’

There, the trolls need to expel negativity like it’s a bodily function is thrust upon an unsuspecting victim. Troll is happy. But that happiness doesn’t last long. The negativity is creeping back, clawing over the false exuberance that came from the initial attack. He must attack again, and so it goes on.

It’s easy for online trolls to exist because they’re disconnected from the emotional act of hurting someone through cyberspace. There’s a name for it too apparently. It’s called ‘the online disinhibition effect’ it is multifaceted and better explained by someone else. If you’re interested this article will tell you more. (Update – 24/11/18 – The above link is currently broken because the domain has been suspended).

I haven’t (yet) had any online trolls knocking on my digital door, no that’s not an invitation to start! I have, however, experienced bullying and although it’s helped shape me into the person I am today I do sometimes wonder if I’d be a different me had I not been bullied. What roads I would have taken, what choices I’d have made, where my life would have taken me. Would I have more than zero novels under my belt? Maybe, maybe not.

There was a video doing the rounds on Facebook about bullying which helps us to understand the mechanics of bullying and how to shove a big fat stick in the spokes of a bully, you can check it out here. It’s basically what the Pixar’s Monsters Inc. movie tells us about life, that laughter and kindness have more power, we just need to learn to harness it in the face of bullies.

Online trolls are just faceless bullies, although the word ‘just’ isn’t meant to belittle a persons experience of trolls rather the troll itself. So, if ever a troll comes knocking I plan to harness my inner Harry Potter, at the end of the Order of the Phoenix, expelling negativity with kindness and maybe the police, because some lines just shouldn’t be crossed.

I wondered what other people’s experiences of trolling are and how you’ve managed it? Feel free to comment below.

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