I've been thinking about trolls. No, not the kind that hid under bridges and hang out with the Three Billy Goats Gruff--the ones that lurk around the Internet just waiting for the right moment to make nuisances of themselves. We've all seen them through rude, unnecessary comments, through personal insults against someone they've most likely never met.
Annoying? Absolutely. But they're going even further now.
That's putting it far too mildly.
Sierra has been insulted, harassed, and threatened with death. Yes, you read that correctly. Apart from blatant threats, there have also been horrific, disgusting photos posted, altered so that the implication is clear.
As ridiculous as this sounds to a naive ear, this is Sierra's reality. She has canceled speaking engagements, has been afraid to leave her house, and has stopped updating her blog. I certainly don't blame her.
I've been lucky in that I haven't attracted any trolls yet, but fame as a blogger cuts like a double-edged sword, doesn't it? Achieve any level of recognition and you're opening yourself up to be targeted too. Even us small-timers aren't immune though; at least three of my regular reads have been targets.
Why does this happen?
Is it the anonymity of the Internet? Perhaps. People become braver when they aren't likely to be held personally accountable for something. But really, isn't it all about attention?
A few months ago, I read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (fuller review coming soon) and was completely taken with the character of octogenarian Leo Gursky. Leo's remaining goal in life is to not die on a day he hadn't been seen. Simple as that. And so Leo buys things when he doesn't need them, asks for items in stores he has no intention of buying, and even intentionally dumps his popcorn in the movie theater. All so he doesn't go unnoticed.
I think trolls have a lot in common with Leo. They, too, want to be recognized, acknowledged, made to feel alive and part of something. Sounds kinda hippy, but maybe trolls just need a freaking hug--cyber or otherwise.
Unfortunately, though, trolls only feed off attention, so many recommend just ignoring them, just leaving them alone. In fact, this suggestion is part of Tim O'Reilly's Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct.
So does ignoring trolls work? Or does it only make trolls more lonely, angry, and, in turn, more trolly--or even more dangerous, like what we've seen in Kathy Sierra's case?
I honestly don't know the answer, so I'm asking.
What do you think? What's the best way to deal with a troll?
Sognatrice's blog is bleeding espresso