Don’t Feed the Trolls

Once upon a time, in a far off, magical place, the Internet was born. On that splendid day, hundreds of grumpy old trolls retreated from beneath their bridges, sat down at computers, and proceeded to annoy the shit out of everyone.

For those who aren’t hip to the lingo, Urban Dictionary defines troll as “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”

Trolls are people who, for lack of anything better to do with their time, argue on the Internet for fun.

I happen to know one such troll, and recently made the mistake of engaging him.

I met this “friend” in Amsterdam during the year I spent in the Netherlands. He’s an American who is so devoted to marijuana that he illegally moved across the world to smoke it legally. We hung out at the same live music bar on weekends, and had a few mutual friends. Three years into his stay, he now believes that he is actually Dutch, and takes every available opportunity to publicly scorn and criticize the ignorant “yanks” he once associated with.

He regularly airs his complaints on Facebook, where they often fall on deaf ears. I usually laugh them off; knowing that he’s just seated at his laptop, bong-loaded, waiting for a fight.

A few weeks ago, however, he posted something that I felt compelled to respond to. It was the same week that the Supreme Court was hearing arguments about gay marriage, and the Monsanto Protection Act had been passed. He was angry that the attention was all on the gay marriage issue, and that we “yanks” were too distracted to see the really important matter. Always with the yanks.

Name blurred for privacy, and photo altered for accuracy.

Name blurred for privacy, and photo altered for accuracy.

I happen to feel passionate about the importance of both issues, so I politely pointed out to him that it’s possible to care about two things at once. My mistake. During the next hour, as I stepped away from the computer and back into the real world, my phone continued to buzz with notifications. He was retaliating with an endless stream of comments, each longer and further off topic than the last.

I’d been trolled.

Comments translated for your convenience.

Comments translated for your convenience.

The next day, when I finally had time to sit down and read his monologue, I was both amused and infuriated. For someone who was complaining about a group of people being distracted from an issue, he didn’t seem to be focused on anything in particular. I pulled myself together, turned my frustration into cohesive sentences, and attempted to put an end to his diatribe. It worked!

This unpleasant situation could have been easily avoided if I had only trusted my instincts. Heed my advice, fellow Internet-wanderers, and stay in the warm and muddy waters of The Swamp. Should you come across any creaky old bridges in your travels, do not, under any circumstances, feed the trolls.

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