17 March 2010

True Confession

Over at Her Bad Mother's blog Catherine posted a particularly vile piece of hate mail she got.

It's pretty bad, full of personal attack and "you make me sick" and all that. The worst kind of internet yuck.

In the comments, Katie of Motherbumper said something that struck a nerve:
People who follow you just to spew forth such vile diatribes aren’t people at all. Sure they wear the same shell but the part of them capable of love and support has been sucked dry (probably due to their own actions). What a miserable world that writer must live in and I’m truly sorry she took it out on you.

It reminded me of someone. Me. I was a troll.

I only did it once and I know it was wrong and stupid and bad. It was when I first started blogging and I was looking around for things to read. I used the Blogger "next blog" button to find random blogs to look at. Yeah, it was so far back that I didn't know anyone whose blog I could read.

I happened upon a blog by a woman who was building a house. A big, monstrous, ugly suburban McMansion. She was lovingly detailing every day of construction with multiple photos.

The thing offended my eyes. It was a hideous combination of architectural styles - some kind of thing with turrets out front. Probably 5000 square feet. In Texas.

This is not the McMansion in question. But you get the idea.

And the other thing the woman did was talk about her Christianity and how Jesus was the number one thing in her life.

After reading about 5 posts, I commented. Anonymously and hatefully about why she was wasting the world's time documenting her hideous house and talking about Jesus when obviously he would have hated her life and her house.


The next time I looked - because, of course, I looked - her blog was gone. Taken down. Disappeared. The troll - me - had done its work and ruined the woman's joy for her.

Yeah, I'm not very proud of that, and I wish I could apologize.

If I could, here's what I would say to her now: That comment was not at all about you. It was about me. I was in a horrid, sucky place in my own mind. I was depressed and frustrated and unhappy and feeling trapped and stupid and small, and instead of growing up and doing something mature about my problems, I attacked you. I did it because I was weak and lazy and mean-spirited. I did it because it was easier to try and mess with your life than it was to fix my own. I had no right to do that and I will never, ever do anything like it again.

So when I read The Troll - and I have a pretty good idea who wrote that email - on Catherine's blog, I recognized her form of personality defect. Katie is right - she lives in a horrible world, one of her own creation, and she doesn't know how to get out, so she lashes out. She probably feels like "barely a person at all." Like I did once.

I don't excuse her, and I don't excuse myself. I do feel sorry for her, and I know there's hope for her. I will keep small candle burning for her in the corner of my mind.


Laurie said...

This is at the root of the "Don't feed the trolls" concept, I think. Because really, they can't be filled. Engagement is really just fuel for two one-sided conversations.

This kind of behavior doesn't need to be excused but I think you're right - it can be a little better understood. It doesn't solve it or take it away but I think it makes it a little easier to put in perspective.

But that's just me. I'm ready for an Internet vacation. ;)

Kyran said...

wow, this is a very generous and evolved bit of sharing. thank you.

Overflowing Brain said...

I think it's pretty freaking brave of you to stand up and say all this. Because it would be just as easy to go along forever and pretend like you've never done anything. For that, I applaud you.

I have trolls, I have more than I need, more than I can ignore, more than I can get out of my mind. I have one on twitter who is really making my online life particularly miserable. Going out of his way to point my blog out to other people to make fun of me for.

But I think that you're right. What they write isn't necessarily about me. It's about them. And maybe looking at it like that will make me more able to deal with it.

Amie Adams said...

I almost stopped blogging the first year because of a troll. I've almost stopped blogging for a million other reasons too.

But this post? This post is the kind of thing that keeps me engaged.

I can just see that candle. Thank you for giving me that visual. I'm going to light a few in the corner of my mind tonight.

Neil said...

I love this post in so many ways, especially in the way you turn inwards. Blogging has grown rather sanctimonious and boring lately, with everyone seeing wrong elsewhere, while praising their own grace and modesty. It is much more interesting, and sophisticated, to see this wrong in yourself. Of course trolls are horrible. We all know that. But you added some necessary humanity to the discussion.

Lynnea said...

This is why I love you.

Complete honesty, thoughtful incite, overwhleming compassion.

Kalyn Denny said...

I'm really moved by your honesty. Everyone has done things they aren't proud of, but most people would never admit it to the world.

Andrea (@shutterbitch) said...

I am so proud of your honesty here. It takes courage to admit to making a mistake, especially this one and admitting to it online where trolls are so hated. I hope that woman stumbles across this post and recognizes herself in it.

Your refusal to pander to an audience, to 'brand' yourself, and to conform to what the blog world says women bloggers should be are the biggest reasons I read you and have since I discovered blogs back when I was writing Little Bald Doctors. You have integrity that is so lacking everywhere, both online and off.

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

I love you. That is all.

Deb Rox said...

You are true blue, the real thing, and while I see a big difference between the levels of hate in different definitions of "troll" though that might be for my own comfort, because I too have done that type of driveby dumptruck. It felt justified at the time, but when I think about it, who am I to judge and dismiss, and if I'm not invested in engaging them in civil discussion, why comment? So I guess that is being a troll, and if so, I've succumbed too. I also in the early days posted at times anonomously, but then had to face that if I couldn't sign my name to what I thought was humor or insight, I shouldn't write it. Thanks for the confession booth, and inspiration.

Heather said...

I was a troll once, too, except I lashed out at someone I knew. It was a former coworker whose blog I found on Livejournal. We used to be friends, but by the time she left my office our friendship had deteriorated to the point we were no longer speaking to each other.

The tone of her blog posts was almost always negative. She was always complaining, which she had every right to do since it was her blog, but it reminded me of so many conversations we'd had and how we used to feed of each other's misery. I was still very angry with her for the way we left things so I let her have it. I posted an anonymous comment asking if there was anything in her life she didn't hate because all she did was bitch bitch bitch.

She posted an angry reply the next day stating she could write whatever the hell she wanted to write but that she was taking her blog down anyway. And she did. I felt bad about that for a long time because anyone who is brave enough to share their lives online doesn't deserve to be treated that way. I don't know if she ever suspected it was me, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did.

Thanks for sharing your story. I'd post mine on my own blog, but I'm fairly sure that former coworker still reads me and I'm not ready to confess my sins to her.

But you're right, it's all about the troll and not about the writer at all.

Gemini-Girl said...

Thank you for sharing this! It takes a lot to admit that. I hope that troll turns her hate inward and asks herself why she can spew so much negativity onto someone she doesnt even know.

Ginny said...

Damn, this was good. It confirmed what I've always thought about comments in general: they're rarely about the post, mostly about the commenter, good OR bad. Thanks for sharing it.

the new girl said...


This is an awesome post. And I think you're super-fantastic for writing it.

I agree that negative, seething, angry to the point of hostile/abusive comments are always, ALWAYS more about the commenter than the recipient.

I'm not sure a one-timer earns you the Troll moniker but it's great to hear your perspective.

Debbie, i obsess said...

You've always been brave to me, Suebob. This only deepens my appreciation for you. It's really cool that you're owning this. While I've never actually trolled, I've had moments of totally longing to do so. Which is really the same thing. Even if the person never heard or felt my resentment. I had it. It probably came bubbling out somewhere else instead, but it came out. And for that I'm sorry.

Thanks for making me own my feelings on the matter, too.

lizgwiz said...

Of course, that is a really ugly house. ;)

But you're right, you're right. It's not our place to say it. On the owner's blog, at least.

Suzanne said...

Yeah. I've had some blog behavior I'm way not proud of. I didn't leave nasty comments on someone's blog, but I trashed her on mine. It was provoked by an article in the newspaper, but I was really looking for an excuse to put her name on my blog because I thought it would increase traffic. Although I should have been punished for this, the nasty comments that I got as a result (and deserved) weirdly led me to form some close relationships with other bloggers who defended my right to be obnoxious. But I do hang my head in shame over that incident. I've bemoaned it on my blog, too.

Anyway, I agree with everyone else who commented already that you are brave to write this and introspection and thoughtfulness is one of the many wonderful aspects of you that I admire, in addition to your sense of humor and views of the world and excellent writing skills and tolerance of comments that involve run on sentences. :)

flurrious said...

I've started about a half-dozen different responses here, all of them way too wordy, but the gist of it is that many of us have said things online that we wish we could take back, and that I am a fan of yours. So much so that I would even wear a little button with your face on it on my coat lapel, but that would be weird so I actually wouldn't, but you see my point.

Glennis said...

I love that you confessed your own act of trolliness, and that you have compassion for both the victim and the troll. You're a good person.

A blog I frequent was recently bombarded by some hateful trolls, and it was very depressing to read.

The Chandlers said...

I came to read this from BA's post on BlogHer. I was a former mean girl, and I don't know why I find myself attracted to former mean girls. I think it's the fact they know the heart of a troll. But still are open enough that the words of the miserable people who troll us hurts us. We are all human. We make mistakes. We have feelings. It's so full circle.

Courtney Ludwig said...

I liked this part:

her form of personality defect. - she lives in a horrible world, one of her own creation, and she doesn't know how to get out, so she lashes out. She probably feels like "barely a person at all." Like I did once.

I feel like that sometimes, and it makes me a bitch in real life.

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