Vampires, werewolves, witches, wizards. Cinderella, Red Riding Hood. Those types.
Books and TV have reinvented those classic characters over the last decade or so, weaving them into modern times and relevant situations, while still preserving the essence of the fairy tale. It’s a trend. The “fractured fairy tale”, it’s sometimes called.
But there’s a fairy tale character that’s been ignored, and it needs our attention.
Because it has changed, and morphed into something unrecognizable. The old fairy tales don’t accurately describe this creature anymore, and people need to know how to spot one, for their own protection.
Everyone must be warned! They need to know that trolls are no longer ugly little creatures that live under bridges.
Instead, they now look just like us! They have names like Uncle Larry-the-south-will-rise-again or Mr. Tanner-my-9th-grade-english-teacher-who-taught-me-better or Cousin Betty-I’ll-run-right-to-grandma-and-tell-her-what-you-just-posted!
They could be lurking at the end of every “Post” button you hit!
Troll. It’s the word used now to describe people who’s virtual selves like nothing more than to bring negativity wherever they can. They seek out social media posts and memes and articles, and settle on in to the comments section and camp out for the night. Then they chisel little pieces of your soul away bit by bit, while they explain to you why everything about you is wrong.
And those damned things have jumped out from under my bridge enough times now that I walk the long way to get home.
But what’s the big deal, you just block them or un-friend them or something, right? Or if it’s someone you don’t even know then who cares? Just ignore them.
Everyone says that. And does it ever work that way?
Try this. Roll your sleeves up, get your “Determined” face on, pull up your Facebook friends list and start clicking through, un-friending all the trolls (or potential ones). You’ll get through a couple, then you’ll start hearing the voices.
“Hmm, she likes my posts all the time, she’d definitely notice if I delete her.”
“I won’t hear the end of it at Thanksgiving this year.”
“He’ll easily be able to tell that I still have Facebook, and he’ll know that I unfriended him.”
“She’ll think I’m doing this because of that one thing that happened, but I don’t really care about that and I don’t want her to think that I do.”
“He did something nice for me 15 years ago and I don’t want him to think I’m ungrateful.”
Guess who’s saying that shiz? More trolls. HEAD TROLLS…the worst species of them.
This whole troll business isn’t important because we get our wittle feewings hurt. It’s important because we DON’T get our feelings hurt.
We don’t say half the stuff that we so desperately want to say, out of fear of having our feelings hurt.
How many times have I typed out a passionate message, blood pumping and heart racing, just to delete it before I ever even post it? How many times have I decided not to share an article, because I know that Auntie Ruth-the-earth-is-6,000-years-old is at home hitting “refresh” on her screen, ready with a list of go-to bible verses?
How many times have I literally imagined in my head the face of a particular person, scrunching their nose in disgust, or perhaps in mockery, at a blog post I’ve written?
How many times have I gone back and culled my blog of posts I made months ago, because I decided they make me look foolish now?
How many times have I deleted a post because I could just picture my husband’s face flush red in embarrassment after reading it, because he knows that his friends might have read it too? (Case in point, I just deleted this very sentence because I don’t want him to think I’m painting him as unsupportive…but I rewrote it, because it’s MY truth. I DO delete posts for that very reason, and that particular vision of him in my mind is just another fucking troll in disguise).
Ok, so, trolls make us timid. So? What’s the problem with protecting your feelings?
Nothing, I suppose, if you just want to be a fucking pigeon. If you want to be just like everyone else, and pretend like you agree with everyone on everything because life is more sunshine and rainbows that way.
I’m not being mean to you. Because it’s me that I’m talking about. I’m the pigeon. I’m the one who is terrified of confrontation of any sort. I have an adverse physical reaction to it. I shake, my face gets hot, I get that classic metallic taste anxiety brings.
Hell, I’m feeling that way just writing about feeling that way.
So I withhold a big piece of myself in my writing. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I don’t want anyone to be “disappointed” in me. I don’t want family and friends to stop loving me because I’m a lot different from who I was as a kid. I don’t want to say something incorrect and then be made to feel stupid about it.
And the result is bland, weak, unsubstantial writing, with whatever “message” I’ve decided I want to send that day basted into whatever little crack I could find. Sometimes, it doesn’t even read like I wrote it.
And all for the sake of avoiding the trolls under the bridge.
Well, I’ve got news for me (and you). They’re not going anywhere. They may change form over time, but they’ll never truly be gone. They’ll probably even get bigger and meaner the more we grow. The more successful we get.
Because “misery loves company” is a cliché for a reason: it’s true. Always has been, always will be. And I don’t have to tell you that the trolls trying to make you miserable, are simply miserable themselves.
Let’s be honest, ignoring them is easier said than done. It’s just not that simple. We care too much about what other people think. Learning to ignore the trolls is not going to happen overnight. You might one day get used to them, but I doubt they will ever stop affecting you completely.
So instead of ignoring them, here’s what I’m going to do. Acknowledge them.
And I don’t mean replying “thank you for your comment!”. I mean mentally acknowledging that they’re there, that they said what they said, and what prompted it. Part of what’s so scary about being ourselves online is not knowing who is going to come out of the woodwork to get us, and what actions of ours might cause it.
So, if you start acknowledging who they are and what gets a reaction from them, you can start to see them coming from a mile away. You don’t have to censor yourself for them. Don’t. But rather, go ahead and guess what they’ll probably say each time you post something new. And then just be ready for it. If it comes, you can just smile and shake your head and congratulate yourself on being right (and maybe even feel sorry for them for being so awfully predictable).
It will still sting. But if you’ve sprayed on your troll-repellent ahead of time, it won’t leave much of a mark anymore.
I’m there with you, torch and battle axe in hand. Let’s be troll-slayers together, and live happily ever after.
P.S. You know that one friend you see cowering in the corner, not being herself? Do her a favor and share this post link with her.