To catch a trollBy Jeffrey Preston On Dec 21, 2011 9 Comments
As some of you probably know, I had a bit of a run-in with an Internet troll earlier this week. In my attempt to hire a new aid, I put up a job posting on kijiji. Unfortunately, a little brat decided to respond saying “I’m interested in taking care of your retard. is he fully derp, or just kinda.” Curiously, this particular individual decided, instead of using a fake email address, to use the one connected to his Facebook page which included photos and information like his mailing address. Trolling 101, Joshua Cottrell, don’t use your real email address!
So I have spent the past few days contemplating what to do about this guy. Should I chew him out about mocking the disabled? Should I troll him back? I had a lot of good ideas and suggestions on what to do–like going carolling at his house or sending him a fake letter in the mail from Fanshawe stating he will be expelled if he does not send a written apology to the dean of his faculty.
After a lot of soul searching (and after receiving some personal information about this gentleman) I’ve decided to do two things: first, send him an email and second, write this little blog post and share the email with all of you.
Hopefully, Josh will learn something from this whole experience and, if not, at least there will be a nice google-able documentation of it.
Without further ado, this is the email I just sent him (from a fake email address).
Recently you submitted a mocking job application to a post on Kijiji, claiming to be willing to “look after [my] retard” and inquiring as to whether or not the individual was “fully derp [sic].” I’m sure you thought it was pretty funny, especially the 4chan meme photo attached to the application, but frankly your snide remarks aren’t appreciated. Unfortunately, the comments were not made quite as anonymously as you may have expected. In fact, it took very little effort to track down your name, alternate email addresses, and mailing address. In fact, I even talked to some people who went to high school with you.
Over the past few days, I’ve been trying to decide what to do about this. Clearly you were just trolling, doing it for the lulz, but that doesn’t make it okay to pick on people with intellectual limitations. First I considered simply outing you online, ensuring that any future employer looking for you on Google would find some of the poor choices you’ve made online and reconsider hiring you. Then I thought about reporting you to your dean at Fanshawe College, as your behavior clearly contravenes the student code of conduct. Lastly, I considered simply reporting you to the police, as your actions would classify as cyber bullying of a vulnerable population, something that could land you in both civil and legal court.
But it was during my digging that I discovered something that should have been obvious from the very beginning—you were bullied. And that’s kind of what this is all about, isn’t it? For who knows how long, you’ve felt powerless as others picked on you. You spend your time attempting to escape these feelings of inadequacy by playing games like World of Warcraft and, more recently, the new Star Wars MMO as a character named Zaeus—in these worlds, you can be more than just the kid who was picked on in high school. You hang around 4chan, because then you feel like part of something bigger than yourself—a part of a community that exerts real power online through intimidation and satire. And for all these reasons, in a desperate attempt to exert some power in your life, you lashed out at the intellectually disabled, presumably anonymously, because it made you feel superior: it made you feel in control.
And, honestly, that’s one of the saddest things I’ve heard all year. In fact, it’s so sad I decided that I wouldn’t bully you back. I wouldn’t kick and scream or troll you in some elaborate scheme to get revenge. Because somewhere along the lines I realized that we’re not so different, you and I. I know what it’s like to be picked on because you’re perceived to be different and, by inference, weak. I know what it’s like to be the butt of jokes and to be ostracized and I don’t want to be yet another in a long list of people to put you down.
Rather, Josh, I want you to know that there are other ways to be powerful in this world and better ways to make your voice heard. You might be surprised by the respect you will earn from people if you step out of your comfort zone and do something to make London a better place. Try volunteering, get involved with a community group, maybe even help out with an organization like Community Living so you can get a better perspective on what it’s really like to live (and thrive) with an intellectual limitation. Mocking people online might seem like the only way to regain power in your life, but trust me, it’s not the best.
For what it’s worth, I think you can be so much more than a troll.