I put up a blog post yesterday, and some might say I was trolling. I am sensitive to this, as I have been bashed around at times since I started a Facebook in 2013, (mostly to meet other artists). I had to learn the etiquette, and along the way, I have seen some bullying that makes me want to scream. On the other hand, I have also seen some counter-bullying and strange social media practices that put some “trolling” into a gray area.
Yesterday, I posted about Robyn Cage, actually, but in my introduction, I mentioned how disheartening it is to see people (not her) putting up condescending mini-games as if suddenly my kindergarten teacher. Hey. If you entertain yourself and your friends by saying, “Hair Metal or Speed Metal – GO!” then all the power to you. The problem I have with it is that other authors have told me that to build their following they spend half their day on social media doing this stuff. That, in my humble opinion, is an incredible waste of time, and I think it lowers the credibility of the artist in general. (The given writer is embedded in these things when he or she could be writing fiction). I also strongly believe it causes an awful lot of trolling in itself by design. To take the above-mentioned example, I was a member of a couple of metal and guitar-player groups that were literally filled with these postings, the responses actually the ugliest shit I could possibly imagine. I actually had some “Speed Metal” guy scolding me like a child for not celebrating the “Big 4” enough, as the spandex guys like Bon Jovi and Cinderella were “never really even considered metal.” It wasn’t until our thread got lengthy with red-hot back and forth, that I uncovered the fact that he had never even played in a band except once, repeat, once to do covers. I calmly wrote back that I was in one of those “Hair Bands” in the 80’s, playing originals in clubs, and knew tons of the “Speed” guys. We jammed together, and this supposed “war” was non-existent.
Usually, the trolling is way worse on these silly “game” threads, and so I blame the “innocent” instigators as much as the participants. I saw a video on Twitter yesterday from Ali Spagnola, a comic and musician into big time fitness (who is pretty cool actually) doing an anti-hate-trolling song, protesting in the beginning, specifically, the phrases: “That’s so gay,” “What a waste,” “Fix your face,” and “You need to get laid.” I agree with her 100,000 percent, but I still believe the condescending, time consuming, self degrading practice of putting up ridiculous “game” posts, asking people to waste their time writing about subjective things as if concrete fact, becomes a nest for trolling that should be put into this conversation. And oh, I have seen much worse than her examples on these threads.
Another aspect of this that is important to mention, is that “ultra-troll-sensitivity” actually goes against not only the non-trolling idea in general, but makes it harder to teach analysis in college. Let me explain.
When the last season of Game of Thrones came out, I complained about a couple of the episodes on a personal Facebook thread. I did not tag anyone, nor did I copy it onto anyone else’s thread. My complaints, I still feel, were quite valid. The battle scene at Winterfell was too darkly filmed. The heroes lived too long in the crowd of White Walkers to be believed, and the ending of the Night King was cheap. The conflict between he and the Three Eye’d Raven was never realized, and though foreshadowed that “you kill him, you get them all,” Arya jumping in from nowhere and doing a “knife-trick” looked hackneyed. Better would have been something like Sam and Cersei’s doctor (who was experimenting with genetics and stuff) to have had to join together, next inventing a way to make dragon glass airborne. The battle scene as the White Walkers are slowly poisoned to death would have been brilliant, as we would have seen the first medieval gas masks on the humans.
Well. I got an immediate backlash. Since I am a horror writer and rock reviewer, I have many people on my Facebook I don’t know. Some of them made themselves heard, calling me things way worse than the stuff Ms. Spagnola was singing about. One of my actual friends (wife of my son’s Babe Ruth coach years ago) sent me a private message basically telling me that if I criticize something a lot of people love, I am indirectly trolling them. I find this to be a blasphemous and horrendous reversal. My comments were comprised of logical, fair criticism, that which was delivered politely, without calling anyone “gay” or a “waste,” or anything like that. This was not criticism of a person in the private sphere, but a work of public art the writers are getting paid for. Moreover, again, I did this on my own personal thread. The people calling me “douchebag” and “fuckface,” and “asswipe” and “numb-nuts” were people I didn’t even know…those to whom I had never spoken a word, invading my personal thread.
Furthermore, to the same point, I have noticed lately that my college students in intro to rhetoric have trouble understanding that it is not only acceptable, but preferred, that they look at a source for a given research paper and criticize it. It seems that ironically, Facebook and anti-trolling sentiment backfire here, creating a generation of “yes-men and women” thinking it is necessary to simply “agree” with everything. It stunts critical thinking, and ensures we will have a bunch of college graduates afraid to question anything. Still, I am sure they will be more than qualified to go online and say, “Anthrax or Slayer. GO!”
I’ve been trolled. I don’t like it. I don’t like when politicians do it or when someone on one political side somehow makes those on the other, “America’s enemy.”
I just don’t prefer to watch this ironic sort of reversal make it so we police each other to the point of all becoming “yes-people.”