Yesterday was a Suzy Homemaker* day for me: I made deviled eggs, a batch of soft oat rolls and some oatmeal cookies, then invited my niece and her kids over for a round of Café Awesome. After that we went out to glean feral raspberries.
During the day I also put up the first of those Swagbucks “Five for Five” promotional posts and wrote and scheduled the other four. I arranged for a couple of interviews, did some research for next week’s articles, rounded up and washed jam jars, and made a huge batch of raspberry-rhubarb jam.
(Note to self: Nine cups of rhubarb means lots of chopping. Find an easier recipe.)
However, I also made the mistake of visiting the comments section of “How to make a quick $50,” that day’s MSN Money post. Suffice it to say that the process sucked far too much time out of my day.
DF sympathized when he got home: “Herding trolls again?”Another writer friend has chided me about this: “Don’t read the comments! Half the world is on Prozac but it’s the wrong half.”
Yet eternal comment vigilance is the price of Internet freedom. Or at least the price of my peace of mind: Rather than wait for readers to report racial slurs or profanity, and then wait for a moderator to delete those comments, I vaporize ’em myself.
On MSN Money, readers get axed and/or banned only if they’re specifically profane, threatening, etc. Otherwise you can be as rude and obnoxious as you want – and some people do want.
This tendency is explained in four succinct, brilliant steps by John Gabriel in his “Greater Internet Dickwad Theory.” I laugh every time I look at this, but I also get irritated.
Not nearly as clever as they think
I should probably feel sorry for trolls: This is how they choose to spend their free time? Being anonymous jerks? They must lead very, very small lives.
Maybe they listen to too much drive-time radio and think that obnoxious attitude = clever and devastating wit. Maybe they have no power in their own lives and spend their spare time cutting down other people they don’t even know as an attempt at supremacy.
This may be the best they ever get to feel. Saying assholic things and getting away with them makes them feel invincible. Devastatingly witty, even.
Somebody told me that “anonymity breeds animosity.” I agree. People probably wouldn’t get right in my face and call me “a farm animal who has had her head in the feed bag for too long,” or say, “This author hates herself for being so fat and ugly.” But they leave comments like that on my MSN Money articles.
Sure, I get nice comments and constructive criticism as well. It’s just that you remember the haters more vividly.
Civil discourse is possible – it’s just not likely
The comments section is there so that readers can share their own points of view. Too often they’re talking points rather than real points, or lazy-ass, knee-jerk retorts like:
- “They paid you to write this junk?” (I only wish I could respond, “You bet! And they pay quite well!”)
- “This would never work in real life because…” (In other words: It didn’t work for me/sounds too far out of my comfort zone. Never mind that I quoted people for whom it did work – and in real life, too.)
- “Democrats! They’re ruining the country! They want to tax the rich and enable the poor!” (I know which radio and TV stations you’ve been patronizing.)
- “Republicans! It’s all the fault of the Republicans! They only care about money!” (Yeah, but I bet you wish you had as many media choices as they did.)
Really, is that the best you can do? Have you ever had an original thought, and supported that thought with facts and/or personal experiences?
I’m just naïve enough to believe that people can disagree without being disagreeable. So yes, I’ll keep herding trolls. And yes, I know I need to grow a thicker skin. I should not let these trogs bother me.
But I still think that comments like “Die, cunt, die” are a little over the top.
*For those of you too young to remember Suzy Homemaker, check out this commercial from my childhood. I still wake up screaming.
More light reading: