feeding the trolls

squed
6 min readMay 2, 2023

i proclaim my status as a hater proudly. i see no reason to deny it, because sometimes you have to accept a bad part of yourself to focus on the good parts. also it is simply very fun to be a hater. to be honest, that’s probably this blog’s raison d’etre- as i have said many times before, most of the time, i write because i feel bad for disliking something. which is very rare, as there are few things in life i love more than hating something!

even though this sounds like when you talk to an npc before a cutscene in a jrpg and they start spewing their life story to you, i am not saying this just to take up bandwidth on the aether! on the hellsite that is the currently elongated muskrat-owned twitter, the people who, for some reason, deigned to pay the £8 or however much it is are rocketed up to be ogled by everyone. because these people are idiots, most of what i see is now 100% unadulterated bullshit.

when i find my hater need- which operates much like in the sims- unsatisfied, one of my favourite places to get my fix is the subreddit (yes, i also use reddit. mainly for photos of cats wearing smart clothing) ‘am i the asshole’. i choose to believe, for my own sanity, and so all love and hope that remains in me doesn’t escape like a djinn after an exorcism, that people use that place as a creative writing exercise. probably because of the deeply ingrained belief within us that all we produce has to be viewed by others and given a response. is that healthy? i couldn’t tell you, but it’s how i live, and i’m (relatively) functioning? despite this, some of the posts are like pay-to-pray priests to me.

the actual posts themselves, while mostly abhorrent and soul-destroying, aren’t why i visit that place, however. the replies are why. often, they are simply ‘morally’ alright. i can see where they’re coming from most of the time, even if it is usually coloured a bit too much from a keith starmer-voting perspective. occasionally, they make very interesting points, that genuinely help me change my mind about something. my favourites, however, are when they are… simply terrible. the worst. despicable? i love it.

this is where my inspiration to write this article differs. instead of trying to think about why i feel bad about disliking something, i am instead trying to gain a sense of catharsis about why i am thinking so much about taking a strange pleasure from something (if that makes sense). it reminds me of a line (the last line, actually!) from one of my favourite books- the outsider, by albert camus:

“i had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution, and that they greet me with cries of hatred.”

with the amplification of twitter blue subscribers, another genre of tweet is brought, like a tidal wave, unto my eyeballs. from a vaguely revolutionary, leftist, ‘big’ account- a somewhat funny quote tweet. it isn’t particularly original, but it adds fuel to the fire of the “discourse” of the day. usually over something very dumb, that anyone with a functioning brain would immediately discard. it isn’t discarded, though, and that is where it interests me.

i have actually, already written something about discourse. from the days of yore, beaming down upon me from a mountain high, a horseman of the apocalypse charges down on me- my old writing! to save you from having to do homework to understand the next part, i shall quote what 18 months ago me, naïve in their weariness, concluded about the three stages of Discourse:

eventually, this discourse will fade out of the cultural discourse, and end up back where it started, the nichest of niche opinions, never to be discussed again. until the next time journalists try to mine twitter for likes, opinions, and sweet, sweet ad revenue.

on the surface, this still seems correct. i think it was an astute point to make about jack dorsey-owned twitter, which did a couple of jobs to a passable extent, and where dunking on people who have more quote tweets than they do braincells inspired a sense of earnest camaraderie. it felt like a social, moral, and egalitarian victory for society- the proof of the marketplace of ideas in its purest form. long live democracy!

probing at this idea a little reveals something lying deeper, however. everyone participating in the ritualistic tearing apart of the twitter “main character” (said with the heaviest of quotation marks) gained a perverse reward out of it. we all knew about this, i think. people’s constant cries about how terrible social media was for the mind proves this- we knew, in our heart of hearts, that what we were doing was… wrong. we couldn’t stop doing it, however. we were reincarnated execution-watchers, except we wielded a part of the axe.

the glee gained from spiritually “killing” (again, said with heavy quotation marks) this idea was what justified it to us, however. being on the side of the mob bestows a certain clemency upon you, absolving you of whatever “wrongs” (do i have to say it a third time?) you committed.

i am not saying that making fun of bad people who have worse ideas is a bad thing- i do it all the time (make of that as you will)! more, that we did this for a reason, to provide a benefit to ourselves, not just for the sake of it.

this is where the flavour of modern hatred and detestation differs. we don’t get the rush of avoiding our hand being bit whilst feeding the trolls anymore. it is an obligation, sometimes an occupation. we don’t get anything fun from being on the side of the masses anymore. in a few short years, the perverse incentive yielded from ogling these idiots has dissipated. we don’t feel any camaraderie in our actions.

tiktok’s shift in the time elapsed has been a driver of this. until late 2021, it was perceived as lawmakers, and non-users as an app for dances and mediocre viral songs, with some occasional big swings out of its comfort zone. after this, it has evolved into something more nebulous.

any big platform on the internet will obviously gain an amount of trolls and generally weird people. tiktok’s amplification of these people, through its “algorithm” (the quotation marks are again, more like sandbags than anything else) lead to the cycle of hatred described above. where it differs is through its medium. because one has to show their face on tiktok in most situations, for fear of ridicule (sidenote: i will have to now write something about social maxims on tiktok). being able to attach a face to both sides of the troll/feeder paradigm removes the anonymity we felt on text-based platforms.

even if you don’t use tiktok, or the myriad of alternatives, the semantic of having an actual human to attach to a snarky quote-tweet, or reddit reply, or whatever the fuck happens on tumblr, still exists. and because of this, the joyful walk up to the pillory (i had to look this up too) loses some of its glamour. you still have a person attached to the sentiment, overpowering any comfort found in the previous shared pitchfork-wielding.

hating online isn’t fun anymore! and we simply cannot stop doing it. even when we have a perfect target, like andrew tate (please join me in wishing death and destruction upon him), his amassed group of 11-year-old fanboys still provide the shield of perception: we feel like we are hating on them, rather than him, due to the lion’s share of brain-beamed bullshit to react to coming from them, rather than directly from tate himself.

i am not sure what one can do to alleviate this situation. i would like to say disassociate yourself from all social media, and live a life of a digital hermit, free from the mind-forged manacles of online hatred and jubilation (sidenote: i think william blake would have been a redditor). i wouldn’t do that though! instead, when the psychological risk/online reward gambit is too close to call, i like to think about these stanzas from one of my favourite poems, punishment by seamus heaney (a hat-trick of literature references! my english teachers should be proud), to help me think about thinking about my paradoxically relative simultaneous in/significance to the daily (sometimes hourly) horde of hatred. do at your own discretion!

i almost love you

but would have cast, i know,

the stones of silence.

i am the artful voyeur

of your brains exposed

and darkened combs,

your muscles’ webbing

and all your numbered bones

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