When I think about how much the Internet has changed since its inception, my first thought usually skips past all of the benefits and lands on the negative. Why? To be honest, I don’t know. Perhaps the darker, colder side of humanity makes a longer lasting impression on me, which I suppose is what it means to be “trolled.”
Ah, yes, trolls. The aggravating and vocal members of the Internet that seem to believe that anonymity grants them a license to be a dick. No matter the topic of conversation, a troll will arise within a matter of time to shit in your cereal bowl for no other reason than to fill the emptiness in their lives. It’s kind of sad, actually. You just want to scoop them up, give them a hug, and repeat “It’s not your fault” over and over again, Good Will Hunting style.
The subculture of trolls may have evolved in recent years, but the concept itself is nothing new. Trolls have actually existed since the dawn of the Internet, they just weren’t organized enough to attract the same attention that they do today. While spamming chat rooms and spewing hate was enough to get you TOS’d back in the heyday of the Internet, there are few repercussions today, which essentially kicked the door wide open for the modern day asshole to emerge.
I am reminded of a time before the new millennium, in which I was in my early twenties. I had saved up enough money to buy my first laptop, and get my very own AOL subscription. Those of you who just laughed, you’re old. 🙂
Anyway, one of my main uses of the Internet back in the 90s was to engage with people that shared my same taste in music. As grunge was being phased out for the revival of punk, it was getting harder and harder for me to find fans of the bands I liked. Upon doing a search one day, I was able to find a chat subscription for the band Swervedriver.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar, a chat subscription was essentially like signing up for a newsletter, only every time a member of the group sent an email, it went out to the entire tree. It wasn’t uncommon to receive hundreds of emails a day if a topic of conversation was hot enough.
When the conversation of “who are your other favorite bands” came up, I was excited to see so many responses with bands from my personal CD collection. Excited, I quickly responded to the thread with my top five favorite bands of the moment, and waited with anticipation for the replies to come in.
You know that awesome “Expectation vs. Reality” scene from 500 Days of Summer? That’s kind of what happened. In my head, I expected to have all these other Swervedriver fans embrace me with open arms for my awesome taste in music, but in reality, I got just one response: “You like Treble Charger? Ugh. I am ashamed that you are a fan of Swerve.”
1. Yes, he really did call Swervedriver “Swerve,” which predated the traditional douchebag by a few years, so I’m kind of impressed.
2. His AOL screen name was “CADENCES.” So, with this being the Internet in 2012, and with millions and millions of people out there…This is long overdue, but if you were CADENCES@AOL.com back in the 90s, you’re a dick, though I suspect you probably already knew that.
Now, bear in mind that I was still very young, but I was able to curb my anger enough to sock him in the gut. I replied, very simply, “If I wanted your opinion, kid, I would have asked for it.” That’s right, no big shouting match, no big overuse of F-bombs, just calling an adult “kid,” and it felt… WONDERFUL!
Naturally, I received about as douche-y a response as you could imagine from this pretentious chode, but I didn’t let it get to me. His insecurity was transparent from the get-go, and I wasn’t about to waste my time on it. Though I imagine today that ol’ CADENCES is stewing in a bath of vinegar and water, I can’t help but wonder if he still trolls the Internet on a never-ending quest to find more people to disagree with.
The moral of today’s story is this: Wear thick skin and always consider the source of the troll trying to rile you up. Meaningful feedback comes in the form of people that matter to you, not some sad, lonely, and pathetic douche nozzle who can only criticize in lieu of any real substance in their life. Keep your chin up and throw your shoulders back, because you are you, and you need to own that shit! 🙂