Thoughts on thick skin, Twitter hate, and trolling.

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(Sorry, everyone – I know I promised you all a happy post about the Pacific Ocean, but this is more timely.)

How do I handle it?

I’ve been asked that question a couple times since Monday’s Twitstorm. I’ve been asked how I developed such thick skin, how I can troll the people calling me a “dumb b*tch” with such cheek, and how other people can develop similar resilience. At the time, I had no ready answer. I’m still not sure I do.

But a couple things have occurred to me since then, and I’ll explore them here. Part of it is about perspective, and part of it is about understanding what breeds Internet hate.

Let’s tackle perspective first. Generally speaking, I don’t like having enemies. I’m not the sort of person who thrives on conflict. I’m not an anger junkie. But in the context of random people tweeting about how much they hate me, my definition of the word “enemy” merits closer examination. I’ve never met any of these people in my life. The most intimate interaction I’ll ever have with any of them is retweeting them. When they watch me on TV and when they tweet about me, there’s the barrier of a screen separating us. We’re very much removed from each other.

In a few words, they really don’t have any power over me. They’re not even worth calling “enemies.”

That helps a lot.

This isn’t my first experience with Internet-disseminated hate, either, although I’ve not really been the recipient of such hate before. I’ve been a denizen of Tumblr long enough to know that people send anonymous hate all the time. Some people are affected pretty horribly by it, but I’ve also seen people opining on how pathetic it is. “Do you really have nothing better to do than to send people anon hate?” they ask.

Granted, the concept of anon hate is more malicious on Tumblr because the haters send it directly to the people in question, whereas I basically sought out my haters. I still think, though, that the point stands.

Another aspect of Twitter hate (that also applies to Tumblr hate) is the forced reliance on self-censorship. The click of a button – tweet or ask or submit – is the only thing between you and the rest of the Internet. It’s never been easier to express your opinions. Which, of course, spawns a tendency for the Internet to become a logorrhific cesspool. If you don’t believe me, then disobey that old adage and read the YouTube comments. Any video ever on feminism would be a good place for your education to start.

I honestly think the presence of Twitter hate reveals more about the haters than it does about anyone else – specifically, their lack of prudence. Not being prone to more charitable impulses is one thing. But not keeping it to yourself? Not thinking for a second that if you can’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all? Not thinking that there’s a chance your words could come back to bite you? Not even considering that your words could hurt someone?  Those things are in a league of their own.

That’s why it’s so important to me that I troll the haters. Retweeting them, letting them know that I know what they say about me, is a form of public shaming. It’s my attempt to remind them that words have consequences, that you never know who’s paying attention to what you’re saying.

Lastly, to the haters:  you’re lucky it was me. You’re lucky I’m not more fragile. If you’d been targeting someone more affected by this stuff than I am, you might have a lot more to answer for. “Awkward,” several of you said after I trolled you.

If you’re not more prudent in the future, things could get way more than just “awkward.”

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts on thick skin, Twitter hate, and trolling.

  1. I think one of the reasons Arthur Chu has gotten so much attention on the Internet is that he responded to his haters. I figured calling them out wasn’t going to make them hate me less so it wasn’t worth it.

    (Watching the QF now – good luck!)

  2. Jeffrey N

    Well said- Twitter is often the bathroom wall of the Internet. Luckily, the general public is aware of said fact and the sympathies (of respectable adults) most often land in a object-of-derision-oriented direction. I guess you could call it the The Phelps Effect (since conscientious folks raise money For The Cause when his family rolls into town).

    I consider myself well-schooled in African-American history and literature, and yet the name Phyllis Wheatley eluded me. Congrats!

    FJ: Don’t feel bad- a bunch of us over @ jboard (if you don’t read it) had an assortment of possible answers like Roget, Bartlett, Johnson and Diderot (I discarded the last when I remembered he was too early)

    • Thank you!! My mother and I had actually had a brief conversation about Phillis Wheatley about a week prior, so that’s pretty much how I remembered her. And no, I don’t make a habit of reading jboard. I have to admire the poetic justice of my second-guessing myself, though.

      • Jeffrey N

        You’re missing the heated debate over whether Tucker’s USB definition should pass muster. I think I saw an edit in there right? A few minutes passed? I would have negged it. Also a bluebottle is *not* a jellyfish (not that it affected the answer) and University of Florida is not the oldest in Florida (or is it? Wikipedia’s Talk page has a fuller discussion) nor the most populous (if that is what the clue implied).

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