Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Waiting Room and Online Trolls.

I've been spending a lot of time in waiting rooms...

I take a friend in to the doctor's office for stuff, now that he is old, and I sit and wait because he of course needs a ride home.  Some days the appointments take hours, so I'm able to pray, including saying a rosary and a chaplet - which aids recollection when it's a bit noisy.  It's a very contemplative experience to practice the presence of God everywhere.  Yesterday I was surrounded by Muslims who speak very fast, so I prayed my rosary and hid the crucifix while doing so - but some of them noted the beads, partially exposed, as they slipped through my hands.  No one yelled Allahu Akbar to interrupt my prayer, so I closed my eyes and kept praying.  After I was finished, it seemed most everyone was gone except for one or two others waiting for their relative or friend.

After a couple of hours I decided to read the Joel Stein article in this week's Time on How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet.  I felt 'convicted' and kind of sad afterwards.  I've been a troll - sort of.  I remember when I first started blogging I criticized other bloggers and authors I did not know because other people did it and I thought I'd add my critique.  I had read some of their stuff and didn't really like it.  It seemed to me their writing was an easy way for them to make money from conversion stories, as well as making a living by exploiting pop-Catholicism catering to the youth ministry market, why I thought that was a 'bad' thing I'm no longer sure.  I also got attention by using their name in my posts.  I liked the attention.  When confronted by these writers, I quickly realized they were real people, real writers with purpose, and I was being totally unfair and unkind and a huge A-hole.  I apologized and tried to avoid that type of blogging.

It's good to be always repenting.

Since then I've done my best to avoid that style of writing and posting.  Not always successfully.  When I trip up, I try to make amends, apologize, and or remove the post.  I think I'm only a little better, because I still make fun of some crackpot bloggers or those who seem especially mercenary - but not so much now days - I hope.  That said, I really do continue to screw up.  Sorry Ann Barnhardt and Toronto Catholic Choristers.  My apologies to the Priestly Fraternity of CafePress as well.  I promise to try even harder to do better.

That said, I couldn't help but think of The Shea-Fisher terminations at the NCRegister.  I never thought of them as trolls - they struck me as pretty much the opposite, actually.  Their posts often took those I considered to be trolls themselves, to the woodshed, as it were.  Their response, though at times a bit 'cruel' seemed to me to fit the crimes of others.  (Someone once said "The 'offended' frequently regard honesty as cruelty.")* Their discourse sometimes seemed an appropriate response to the oftentimes coarse condemnations hurled their way.  Know what I mean?  In other words, it was often a fair fight, but I digress.

Why do trolls be trolls?

Why do they do that stuff?  The Time article kind of explains what's behind it all.  I have long thought that some people are just nuts, misfits in life without a voice until social media came along.  I also think there is a lot of drinking and posting that goes on.  The anonymity stuff is especially hypocritical and dishonest - which pretty much demonstrates a genuine lack of self-knowledge, humility, and someone living in denial.  In a way which reminds me the line from Fine Young Cannibals song Johnny Come Home:
"What is wrong in my life
That I must get drunk every night?"

At least Johnny knew something was wrong - I'm not sure a lot of troll types could admit something is actually wrong with them.  The 'hell is other people' thing, I suppose.

Finally we have a platform that’s democratizing and we can make ourselves heard, and then you’re harassed for advocating for yourself, and that shuts you down again.” - Lindy West

So anyway - here are a couple of excerpts from the Time article I thought were especially insightful ...

A 2014 study published in the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences found that the approximately 5% of Internet users who self-identified as trolls scored extremely high in the dark tetrad of personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and, especially, sadism.
But maybe that’s just people who call themselves trolls. And maybe they do only a small percentage of the actual trolling. “Trolls are portrayed as aberrational and antithetical to how normal people converse with each other. And that could not be further from the truth,” says Whitney Phillips, a literature professor at Mercer University and the author of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture. “These are mostly normal people who do things that seem fun at the time that have huge implications. You want to say this is the bad guys, but it’s a problem of us.”
A 40-year-old dad and lawyer who lives outside Tampa, he says he has become addicted to the attention. “I was totally ruined when I started this. My ex-wife and I had just separated. She decided to start a new, more exciting life without me,” he says. Then his best friend, who he used to do pranks with as a kid, killed himself. Now he’s got an illness that’s keeping him home.

Marty says his trolling has been empowering. - Time

Think about that.  Makes you wonder about some of those bloggers who are really part-time trolls, some even brandish guns to display their 'power' and toughness.  I'm thinking many are pretty much normal people who let themselves go online, venting and ranting and raging.

“The Internet is the realm of the coward. These are people who are all sound and no fury.” - Megan Koester

Actually, I think they have the fury, and though they feel empowered - they experience their powerlessness as soon as they go offline.

Read the article - if nothing else it may be helpful as an examination of conscience.

George Tooker

*Actually Cary Grant said women think a man's honesty is cruelty - or something like that.

Song for this post here.

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