Tuesday, October 8, 2013

once upon a time there was a troll on goodreads...

and he annoyed the hell out of me. i wrote this in response to a spate of comments he made on a book review that was very positive about an author he hated and had dismissed after beginning to read a novel, disliking the style and voice, and deciding not finish it because it wasn't to his taste. fair enough. that he could decide he was going to show everybody who admired the author in question that they were wrong, and that he was the arbiter of taste for western literature or heck! the world, or to simply not respect that not everybody likes the same writing, or art or anything at all made me want to deck him. it seemed to me he was a troll -- somebody who was seeking out controversy by visiting his opinions on those who simply did not see eye-to-eye but who had also initially attempted a thoughtful response, only to realize he was there to needle them. i can understand the attraction of needling. it can be very satisfying. but the penchant for trying to raise the ire in strangers whom you are seeking out for only that reason, or in some misguided approach to friendship makes me crazy. it made me realize that people have taken their television viewing habits to the internet. and so i wrote this:

i think it is pretty simple to discuss and even disagree on topics on the internet. here's a basic template for disagreeing with posts by people you do not know well, if at all, not containing vitriol or adulation:

hi, _____. it appears your view of ____________________ was very different from mine. i can appreciate that you thought _________________________________________________________ but for me, it seemed __________________________. i can't agree with you on ___________  because i thought x was y. what about when 1 did ________________ to 2? that was______________. that's my take on it, anyway. nice chatting with you, even if we disagree.

i debate and discuss and disagree with people on the internet all the time, especially on goodreads and on facebook. some i know well, some i know slightly, and some i don't know at all. i don't need to kowtow to express an opinion, and if i am enthusiastic it's because i want to be. i can't deny that occasionally it has got feisty or heated because that wouldn't be true, but i can honestly say it's never ended with me willfully refusing to understand the point of view(s) being expressed. asking that you show a little consideration and respect when you make a comment is not a debating point; if you can't come to any kind of agreement and it's clear that never the twain shall meet, it seems all there should be left to say is, thanks for letting me know you disagree, hopefully i can take your cues about further dialogue in future and get to know you better (if you are determined to continue to talk to these people you so vehemently disagree with), or walk away. or switch channels...

in fact, it seems to me that people become trolls when they confuse the internet with tv. people are used to spouting their opinions at their tv as they flip its channels. plenty of people watched LOST for example, and yelled at the tv "why the fuck am i watching you?", "you are stupid!", "i am turning you off because you are bullshit" but still kept watching every week. i've no doubt when some people continued to watch as they shouted "i am not watching you ever again! this is not an island show! every island show should have coconut phones and a skipper too" and then posted their disgust somewhere on the internet, if not taking the further step of placing an ad in variety, to let the producers know. but the tv itself doesn't care because it is not a person. and people think because they watch so much of it, they are entitled to give shit without respect. and since the tv can't reply "if you don't like what i have on, go watch something else." people have got used to giving to their non-responsive hardware the gears and brought this practice to the internet. if only it stayed there: again, i see nothing wrong with somebody shouting at their computer because of a comment they read on the internet: "good gravy, man, you're a moron!" but people on the internet can and may respond. they are not plastic cabinets filled with tubes and wires. navigating internet dialogue means understanding that people can and will reply to comments you make if they choose but the author can also choose to ignore you. trying to debate a request for civility or to refuse to agree to disagree because you wish to debate is just self-important and rude. it is like beating a dead horse. on dallas. i'm probably going to wake up in the shower now, and this whole thing will never have happened.

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