Just over a year ago, I got an anonymous e-mail that said, among other things, this:
You honestly make me sick. Keep making money off your dead dad, your dying nephew and your kids. Keep taking trips for free while your 15 minutes are still here, because eventually, people are going to see the scum money grubbing famewhore that lies underneath the fake exterior, and you’ll be yesterday’s news. Here’s hoping that’s sooner than later. Go take another Ativan, cause that’s how you cope, right?
I’ve had a difficult time writing, of late. Part of the reason for that is just good old garden-variety exhaustion — lack of sleep and surplus of work and two small children who are all jacked up on springtime have been combining to drain me utterly – but it’s not only that. The other reason is that I’m just not feeling all that confessional, and there are too many things going on in my life that would, if I were to write about them, feel like confessions – some my own, others not so much my own – and that, for some reason, just feels, I don’t know, hard right now.
Confession is the wrong word here, actually, inasmuch as it implies revealing something shocking or controversial or unseemly. Most of the things that I just don’t feel like writing about right now don’t fall into that category. Some of them do – I’m struggling with some motherhood-related anxieties and some parenting issues that, were I to discuss them, might leave me vulnerable to judgment – but these are the sorts of things that I usually don’t even think of as controversial until after I’ve written about them and the heated commentary begins. Which might be part of the problem here: I’ve just become so skittish, in the last year, about opening up this space to discussion, that maybe I don’t know how to proceed conversationally any more. On any topic.
Last year, I received the following Facebook message:
I know I probably shouldn’t say this, but I have to ask you, how did you end up a “stay at home mom” with no job after all the university you took? … I have to take you off (my Facebook) as it is such a disappointment that you never did anything with your life and you do this all day… it was not what I would have imagined for you Catherine… so sad.
That’s an awesome message to receive, obviously, and – again, obviously – I wrote about it, because when the universe hands you that kind of awesome, you blog the hell out of it. This is what I said:
Once upon a time, in an Internet far, far away – which is to say, 6 months ago – I tweeted about Air Canada. I tweeted about them a few times, actually – I tweeted that they’d broken my nephew’s wheelchair, and I tweeted that they were working to replace it, and then I tweeted that they hadn’t, in fact, replaced it and had instead left Tanner stranded, immobile, while his mother and I scrambled frantically to reach someone at Air Canada on the telephone and did anyone out there have a number that didn’t start with 1-800 and end with ‘we’re sorry, ma’am, but you’ll have to call back on Monday’? – and it kind of started what is often colloquially referred to as a shit storm.
I’ve never written about that shit storm. I’ve never written about it because, frankly, by the time it was over I was sick of the whole thing. I was sick of the whole thing during the whole thing, actually: I was sick of what it did to Tanner and my sister; I was sick of how it took hold of us and shook us and demanded that we explain ourselves, dammit; I was sick of how it spilled TV cameras and reporters into the hall outside our room and how it pulled them along behind us on the sidewalk and in the park and on the subway and demanded that they ask, again and again, does this demonstrate the power of Twitter? Does this demonstrate the power that Twitter gives the little guy? I was sick of trying to explain, yes and no; it’s complicated; this is a triumph, and also not a triumph, and could you please leave that little guy alone? Because that little guy is scared and confused by all of the attention and this isn’t helping.
I wrote this post late last year, and it is testament to the force of its argument and its mantra-like qualities that I cannot even remember what incident it was that prompted me to write it. I’d now like to forget a confrontation with ugly that I had yesterday – ugliness that scratched the wound of an old ugliness, ugliness that was being hurled directly at the beauty of the other week, which meant that it had the potential to cause much hurt – which meant that it did cause much hurt, until I decided to follow the advice below – and so I am reposting it, in the manner of repeating it like a mantra, and asking for your support in asserting it, loudly and clearly and emphatically. Because.
How To Deal With Trolls: A Primer
Step 1: Ignore the trolls.
There are trolls, and then there are trolls.
There are the anonymous trolls that live under the virtual bridges of the Internet, coming out to swat and bite and snarl. And then there are the trolls of real life, the trolls that you know, the trolls that you maybe even loved, the trolls that you didn’t know were trolls until, one day, the claws extended and the fangs bared and the shredded hem of your pants told you – if the sting from the venomous spit of the troll hadn’t alerted you already – that something was amiss.
I get hate mail. Not as much as Dooce, I’m guessing, but enough. I get hateful e-mail – and comments, and Facebook messages, and tweets – about how depressing I am, about how I’m exploiting my children, about how I whine too much, about how I’m encouraging women to take anti-depressants and so contributing to the global drug problem, about how it’s terrible and selfish of me to look for my long-lost brother, about how nobody wants to hear about my Frankenvulva, about how I’m setting the feminist movement back by complaining about motherhood, about how I should just stop writing about my grief over the death of my father already, about how I only write about Tanner to get attention for myself, about how I’m an attention-whore who really should just shut up already, because, please.
I get correspondence that addresses one or another or some combination of those issues and others left unmentioned with some regularity. It’s why I sometimes close comments; it’s why I sometimes just don’t look at my e-mail: because I know that at some point I’m going to read something really hateful. Something like this:
Step 1: Ignore the trolls.
Step 2: Ignore the trolls.
Step 3: IGNORE THE TROLLS. Do not look at them, do not respond to them, do not point your finger at them and scream TROLL, because the only thing that trolls loves more than the sound of their own voice (virtually rendered in the spaces of our community as unpleasant/derogatory/inappropriately critical/unnecessarily smug/indisputably bitchy words on the screen) is the sound of other voices responding to theirs. And what a troll hates more than anything else? The deafening silence that resounds when their words fall into the dark, empty pit of nobody cares, the dark, empty pit that rings only with the hollow echo of their mean spirits hammering against the walls of their vacant souls.