A look back at some lessons learned from an encounter with a troll.
Some people have been asking for closure on my troll run-in so I thought I’d spend Christmas Eve writing a quick update followed by a few quick observation. Indeed, my little troll friend wrote back, first saying “So I got the job?” followed about 30 minutes later with “Want to get a drink?” We are now in process of finding a time to meet for a pint (and lengthily chat). Of course, there’s a good chance this is merely an extended troll and the kid will never show up, but a small part of me is hoping he’s crapping bricks and just wants to make good on his mistake. Christmas miracle? I’ll let everyone know when and where we’re meeting for a drink so you can join us.
But more importantly, here are some things I’ve learned/observed over the past week:
Never listen to your gut reaction when dealing with trolls. The problem is that in the moment of a good trolling, your raw emotions will lead you to do something rash that you’ll usually regret later. The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard, something that all ISPs should be forced to tell people when they sign up for an internet connection, is “Don’t feed the trolls.” The best way to defuse a trolling is to simply ignore it. This seems obvious, in retrospect, but in the heat of the moment, usually all you can think about is revenge.
The high road may be harder but it’s usually more fruitful. Decided to simply write an email and extend an olive branch to Mr Troll was agonizing, but ultimately it was the right choice. The cycle has to stop somewhere and the only person’s actions whom you can control is your own, so be the bigger person and stop the cycle.
Maybe we’re thinking about cyberbullying all wrong. We spend a lot of time talking about bad kids, threats of legal action and “it gets better” campaigns to encourage victims, which I think there is value in, maybe to tackle cyberbullying we need to start listening to the bullies. This is kind of like the high road thing talked about earlier–it will be extremely hard but likely the most fruitful. Rather than the stick, maybe it’s time to use the carrot to give agency back to these people who lash out because they, themselves, feel powerless. How we’d do this, I do not know–what do you think? Leave your ideas in the comments.
Lastly, it would appear the disabled population is pissed. When I put the call out on twitter and facebook to find out what I should do about the troll there was an obvious pattern that quickly emerged — people with disabilities who responded to me unanimously called for revenge and those without disabilities responded almost unanimously calling for amnesty. I think people with disabilities, by and large, are growing tired of being pushed around and this seemingly innocuous troll, something that was essentially a joke in bad taste, tapped into a much deeper feeling about the abilism we face in our daily lives, finally, was an opportunity to hit back.
I think this might be the most significant thing I hope people take from this whole situation — while the nondisabled saw this as being a petty joke, it was actually symbolic of a deeper undercurrent of abilism and disrespect that people with disabilities face. Perhaps we aren’t being called “derps” on a daily basis, but it feels about the same when we encounter near-ubiquitous inaccessibility because, when you break it down, both are saying “you’re not welcome here.”
Food for thought. Happy holidays everyone!