My Troll


How I Imagine my Troll

A week ago, I posted a blog about how different nationalities convey active listening to their interlocutor. I poked fun at Czechs, Brits, Americans, the qualities of a tram, and universities. If you have ever read this blog, you are not surprised. It’s what I do.

The reaction was mostly what I expected, which is to say mostly good-humored. There were a few laughs, a few funny comments, a bunch of Facebook likes, a couple of shares. However, the next day there was an extraordinarily hostile reaction by an American woman on my post. The woman called me “ignorant” and “arrogant,” and even a few things that weren’t true. She used extremely abrasive and abusive language, and expressed seething outrage.

As a natural worrier, my initial reaction was Oh no! I’m in trouble! What did I do wrong? But before I responded, I reread my post and noticed that this woman’s claims about it were highly inaccurate. She accused me of suggesting that Anglophone universities were ‘more civilized than’ their Czech counterparts, when in fact my comment about university work (calling it a shit storm) mentioned absolutely nothing about it being Czech. She sneered at my joke about urine on Czech trams, which, again, was nothing to do with the Czechs.

Essentially, she had ignored the tone and purpose of my post and assigned her own narrative to it. In her version of events, I was an entitled American expat hemorrhaging arrogance and ignorance who not only didn’t understand the beauty of Bohemian culture, but found it subversive and subhuman to all things ‘Merica! Go Trump! MAGA!

Her story was and is fiction.

I wrote a reasonable response, in which I told her that the post was meant to be humorous and, while she was well within her rights to disagree with and dislike it, I think she had taken it too seriously. I went on to defend my post against her assaults, pointing out that she was inferring subtext that was inaccurate, thus misrepresenting my post, and then attacking me on the misrepresentations she had created.

She wrote back instantly, scoffing only my first point (I don’t care how long you’ve been here, you nasty arrogant…) and then ranting for a paragraph. She wrote two more paragraphs (posted separately) all using the same extreme and insult-laden language on my Facebook page. I once again responded in a moderate tone, suggesting that we simply disagree. When she employed the pukey emoticon, I knew we had gone as far as we could go.

I’d like to tell you that I didn’t care and that I thought it was funny, but that would be a boldfaced lie. While I did laugh about it a day later, at that moment I was upset by these insults and accusations and embarrassed that my friends and family were going to witness this unpleasant interaction. I sat at my desk and wondered the following things:

  1. How could this person be so affected by a mere humor post so as to be motivated to such hateful language? I am no stranger to ruffling people’s feathers. Certainly not everyone likes my posts, and I have been confronted in the past. It still upsets me when I upset someone, since that’s not my goal, but if that person criticizes my post with reasonable language, I digest it and deal with it appropriately. This woman didn’t simply disagree or comment negatively, she came out of the gate monstrously and needlessly aggressive. Why?
  2. Why would this person I had never met (she is a friend of a friend) be so interested in painting me in such a horrible light that she would go out of her way to attach subtext that was a serious stretch in the best cases and outright misrepresentations in others? Friends who commented directly to her said that they didn’t see where she was pulling her (very very specific) attacks from. Why do that if you know that others can directly refer to the post and see that she is (over)reacting to elements that not only don’t exist, but were created by her?
  3. Why would she almost completely ignore my response and scoff at it? She claimed to be an academic, but the academics I know pay close attention to the tone, purpose, and, you know, words of a text rather than invent their own. Because, for no other reason, the text can be referred to by others and they may be called out for falsely representing a text. This means breaking one of the pillars of academic integrity – being academically dishonest.
  4. But what mystified me above all of these other points was her instant use of abusive language. First of all, how could a person feel so comfortable using this language that it’s their go-to when dealing with others? There was no escalation of aggression between us, there was no instigation on my part, and she did not start as a reasonable person who was pushed to explosion. She simply came in hurling hideous language to a friend of a friend. How could she justify that?

At the end of my personal think tank it occurred to me: I had a troll!

Her goal wasn’t to criticize a post she found boorish, it was to become enraged, let it fester to outrage, and then to lash out. She scoffed and ignored my response because she didn’t care to hear it. She wasn’t there to argue to a better understanding, she was there to wreak negative havoc and hurt feelings, to make herself feel superior while gilding herself in sanctimony, all under the guise of being a defender of social justice. She was going to stand up for the Czech culture that I had so badly insulted and demeaned and, by golly, she WAS GOING TO USE LOTS OF CAPS TO DO IT.

And then it stopped. She didn’t respond at all to my last response, nor to two friends who directly addressed her and her points. She removed her similarly negative comments from my friend’s Facebook share of the post. Evidently, she didn’t realize that our mutual friend and I were very close, and when she realized that, she apologized for ‘getting her in the middle of something’ and never commented again.

Um. Huh?

Until this unpleasant interaction, I heard mostly pleasant things about this woman. She had written a book, of which I had read two chapters. Her Facebook page depicts a person interested in harmony, light, life, taking care of the downtrodden, and a person who took social awareness seriously. She proclaims to want to make the world a better place. So why would that person, by other evidence a reasonable, caring, and pleasant person, react to my post in such an unpleasant and venomous manner.

I wondered: Was it me?

The answer: No.

I spent an hour looking at this woman’s other interactions on Facebook posts and several of them were mimeographs of her interaction “with” me. She assaulted people simply doing innocuous things – trying to rent a room in a flat, talking about which neighborhood in Prague was ideal, etc. The woman went after each one of these people (and more) with a vile attitude and bilious language that were hugely incongruous to the text or tone.

Her catchwords seemed to be “ignorant” and “arrogant” and her targets were all Americans. They were all accused, as was I, of acting entitled, ignorant, and superior. She assaulted one person for not speaking Czech, and yet, I know about this person and I know she doesn’t speak Czech. She has told people that she got by for decades in Prague with virtually no Czech. She honestly believes that she can claim refugee status because of Donald Trump – just to be clear, she thinks that she is in the same situation as a Syrian escaping civil war or a Czech escaping Czechoslovakia in 1969 because she doesn’t like the (democratically elected) president of her first world country.

Just in case you didn’t pick this up, which I’m sure you did, that line of thinking is the very metastasis of an entitled, ignorant, and superior attitude.

So why does this person feel the need to not only attack people online, but attack them for things she is highly guilty of as well? Does awareness of one’s hypocrisy dissipate once you can do it somewhat anonymously online?

There’s no big joke to end with, folks. I had a troll for a day and she ruined that day. And I am not the only one she’s trolling and she is far from alone in this line of daily engagement online. If this interaction in any way represents or demonstrates how you engage with, interact with, or criticize others online, I am honestly sorry for you. You must be one festering barrel of negativity, pain, and anger to not only treat other people this way, but to think you are justified in doing so. Maybe you think it’s OK because there is no face or personal history with that person. Maybe it’s because you can do this in anonymity. No matter, I ask you to seriously consider your motives. What is missing from your life that your goal is to deliberately ruin another person’s day?

As for my troll, if you are reading this, I’m not going to condescend to you, nor am I going to threaten or scold beyond what I already have. But please stop interacting with people like this, it’s hateful and negative, and it says far more about you than it does them. If you are truly interested in making the world a better place, then start by being nicer to people. Yes, even us arrogant and ignorant Americans, we need it the most. Trust me.

Oh, and thanks for reading.

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