Well, today was interesting. I woke up and saw a tweet in my Hootsuite thingy (I use it to manage my Twitter account) from a woman whom I have unfollowed a few days ago in my Twitter cleaning spree. She mentioned me to another person, a man whom I have unfollowed yesterday (and who bitched me out, and to whom I was nice in return, trying to give him love). She called me a scammer, and she said that I begged my followers for money to go to Russia to see my sick mom, and that they gave it to me. It's true that people gave me money, here is that blog post, but I didn't beg. My followers ASKED ME if they could help. And I set up a way for them to do it.
Both of these people said various things to me that are not even very interesting to recall here.
Now, I am a very calm person.
In fact, since about 5 years ago I wanted to kill myself and didn't, I became very calm. Like, very very calm. Calm like a chilled fucking oyster. But this has sent my blood boiling.
This was dickery caught behind the scenes. This was like coming across two high schoolers gossiping shit behind your back and catching them unaware. Within my ambit of sparkling roiling rage I couldn't find a stick or a handle or any protuberance to hold on to and not to explode. Oh, it was glorious. My anger consumed me. With shaking hands, I began tweeting and ripping them both apart.
I can tell you that after I was done, I regretted it. I didn't fly off the handle, but I did tell them both that they look like pitiful trolls, and after they tried to hide behind "Oh, she is fucking crazy!" and "I will report you to Twitter!" and "Go away, leave me alone!" and "Stop calling me names!", I blocked them. It became nice and quiet. I have let out steam and skated down on the other side of declivity of my irrational rage.
This got me to scratch my head.
This will happen again, the more visible I become. I need to know how to deal with this.
And you know how to do it?
This is the deal. I have explained to both of them that when I have started out on Twitter, I have used tools to grow my numbers. Here is a blog post about how I did it. When I got to following 55K people, I have realized what a hypocrite I became. I talk about connecting to people online, and here I am, not reading tweets of the people I follow. So I started unfollowing those with whom we haven't talked in a while and whose tweets didn't interest me. It doesn't mean they're bad, it simply means I have moved on.
Explaining and apologizing, however, didn't produce anything good. In fact, it produced more anger. More drama. More "Screw you" types of responses.
Here is why.
When an animal has been beaten and is injured and in pain, if you try to pet that animal, it will bite your hand off.
It's not ready to receive love. It will take a long time for that animal to believe that you don't mean harm.
There are a lot of hurt people out there. I am one of them too, and I battle with my own problems daily. However, when you're hurt, when someone offers you love, your first reaction is suspicion. You have heard this lie before. You don't believe it. You know you need to attack, before you get attacked.
That is what online trolls do. They are gobbets of rank meat on the outside, stinky and revolting, and they shove themselves in your face, to ease their own pain. At least a little. Because deep inside they are bleeding. They need love, tons and tons of love.
I believe that even serial killers could be cured. It might take decades of therapy and love, but it can be done. The problem is, our society simply doesn't have the money, nor the desire to do it. Show me someone who would be willing to love a psycho? And most of them are gone, beyond help. So we stick them in jail and execute them.
Back to trolls.
Online you can name yourself anything you want, and you can spew hate almost without any punishment, quickly deleting one account and opening another. It's very easy to do. So what we're seeing happening on the vast wide Internets is our collective human pain expressed in this manner.
What can you do, to deal with this? You can't cure everyone. As an artist, you will spend your energy on defending yourself and won't be able to make art. As you mature, you will grow a thicker skin, like I'm doing now, but it's still not worth it getting dragged into lowly meaningless fights. And I should've known better. What should I have done?
You should too. Ignore them. Block them. Don't get involved. Don't get sucked into conversation. Don't explain. Do nothing. I've seen other writers do this before, quickly stuff trolls or anyone with troll-like behavior into ice cages in Siberia. And I always thought, "Wait! Don't! Try to give some love?"
Yeah, I know now not to do this anymore.
Listen up, folks. When you try to reach writers, especially well known writers, the reason they might not answer or be very brisk is, they are protecting themselves. They are not rude. They are simply used to stupidity and hostility, and they have no time for it. They have learned their lessons a long time ago.
I'm only learning it now.
But boy, do I understand celebrities all of a sudden. People bashing Justin Bieber for drunk driving? Check. People battering Miley Cyrus for that Wrecking Ball video? Check. People harassing Robin Williams's daughter on Twitter after his suicide? Check. People shredding alive anyone who has somehow stepped out of line for whatever it is they deem as a line? Check.
There is so much of it, it's overwhelming.
Here is the deal. I have to drop 17K more accounts on Twitter or so, for me to have sanity and to be able to read stuff of those whom I do follow. Please do not take it as a personal insult. I do know how much it stings, to be unfollowed. I have followed one comedian who followed me back. We chatted a couple times. And then one day he dropped me. I was stunned. I really respect him. I thought I did something wrong. Tweeted stupid stuff. Tweeted too much. It took me a while to realize that none of it might be the case, and I need to let it go.
I know some of you have reached out to me via email, asking what to do with haters. Some of you have suffered 1 star reviews from enraged idiots, some of you have been harassed on Twitter and Facebook. You know who you are. Next time it happens, here is what you do:
- Do not engage. Someone asks you something, and you sense hostility, don't answer. It's what they want, to hook you into the drama. Someone said to me once, don't feed the trolls.
- Ignore. If they continue, you continue doing the same thing you were doing. Ignoring them. Let them rage.
- Block them. That's what it's for, this functionality, to send the to the fucking moon and make them shut up.
- Protect yourself in the future. Whatever you do online, is your business. People will find a way to be upset at anything you do, if they want to. Avoid inflammatory situations like a plague. Make your art. That's your way of battling it with love.
I can tell you that after I did that rant on Twitter, with sinking heart I went to check if those whom I admire for how they handle trolls are still following me. Amanda Palmer? Check. Gail Simone? Check. Chuck Wendig? Check. There are more people, and the fact that they all stuck with me made me feel better. I didn't screw up too bad, I guess. Learning to be tougher.