An open letter to my Twitter troll

Interesting experience this week: For only the second time since I got on Twitter six or seven years ago, I started getting harassed by an honest-to-goodness troll. He/she is literally the kind of tweeter that opens the conversation with vulgarity and then goes down from there. In this case, my troll opened with an image of a toddler extending the middle finger. My offense, in his/her eyes, was that I criticized Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. This apparently makes me a “fascist, cuck, Trumpian, etc.” who should “eat him”. (I mean, I voted for Johnson and have denigrated Trump since the turn of the millennium, but who am I to say who I actually support?) Needless to say, I was dealing with a class act with a razor-sharp intellect. He/she kept tweeting discourse-free bile and rage at me despite me repeatedly making it clear that I didn’t want to engage.

Finally, even though I’m no fan of blocking, muting or reporting accounts – it seems inconsistent with my free discourse mindset on social media – I finally had to do the latter two. This troll would not let up – he/she has been stalking my posts since Wednesday despite knowing that I reported him/her to Twitter.

Anyway, once I stopped being annoyed with my troll, I started to think about the life such people must lead, and I started feeling really depressed for him/her/them.

I spend a lot of time on social media. I often debate issues with people, sometimes pointedly, so I know how even restrained interactions like that can get to feeling a little toxic over time. That’s why I occasionally take a sabbatical for a few weeks from all social media. So when I thought about what it must be like to live on social media like my troll does, endlessly engaging in pointless bile…

I’m not a particularly sentimental person, but I felt legitimately heartsick for people like my troll when that thought hit me.

“…once I stopped being annoyed with my troll, I started to think about the life such people must lead, and I started feeling really depressed for him/her/them.”

I suspect that my troll is reading this, given the aforementioned stalking of my Twitter feed. Thankfully, I won’t know if he/she replies, given the mute. Regardless – and I am speaking directly to my troll now – I meant what I said above. I genuinely feel badly for you. Life is too short, dude (or whatever the feminine is for “dude” these days). Give yourself a break and find a healthier way to channel your views/angst/etc.

Look, I’m all for advocating the positions I believe in on social media and trying to raise awareness of/persuade people on the matters I care about. But what you’re doing is nothing of the sort, whether you realize that or not. I hope at some point you realize that what I’m saying here really is not meant as a cheap shot or dig. You need to seriously reassess how you’re spending your time online. Get off the computer more, and go interact with real people – maybe even some people who you disagree with. Learn to phrase your arguments in ways that might actually further the causes you care about. Most of all, find a way to channel your feelings in a manner that can actually make you happy.

Because if you think that what you’re doing now makes you happy…that’s a really troubling sign.

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