Charlotte Dawson has battled depression for years, according to last night’s 60 Minutes. And so when a vile Twitter campaign, hashtagged #dieCharlotte, launched she was ill equipped to deal with it. There have been two main reactions online to what has been reported as a suicide attempt resulting from online attacks. The first one points to a causal relationship between Dawson’s comments and the reaction she drew from trolls. The second is for everyone to quietly batten down the hatches and take a harder line on bad behaviour.
My view is that no matter how combative or rude someone is they don’t deserve a hate campaign launched against them such as the scope Dawson was subject to in recent times. If people want to be rude and nasty – and make no mistake, calling a group of aspiring models “moles” and “Dapto dogs” is pretty nasty – they should be able to do so without the consequence being a massive online campaign urging their death.
I think trolling is despicable, and the act of cowardly, sad, pathetic little people with nothing clever or witty to say; so they join these roving mobs and go from pillar to post wreaking havoc.
I recently had a run-in with Helen Razer (which was nowhere near a troll experience) and while I found her to be hostile, rude and insulting, it was the minions who followed in her wake that I found most pathetic and offensive – and in this case, quite laughable. People like Fairfax writer Ben Pobjie, and others, who followed in Razer’s wake to join the ‘stacks on’ going on at my blog. (And just by the by, Razer has written an illuminating first-hand account of her own awful experiences, similar to Dawson’s which you can read on Mamamia here).
That’s how trolling works also. A fracas is spotted and like little roaches scuttling in from dark, musty corners of the internet, these vile critters pile on, attempting to upset the apple cart. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes, more often, they don’t.
Like many, I’m a firm believer in the adage, that if you dish it, you should take it without too much complaint. But if you stick your head above the parapet you should expect that sooner or later someone is going to take a pot shot at it, even if you’re only admiring the view. And so it is with bloggers who put their opinions out there.
I remember, very early in my blogging “career”, the first time anyone even looked sideways at me. I dissolved into tears and bawled to hubby that I wasn’t cut out for this, I’d never blog again, I was obviously hopeless, and so on. Probably lots of bloggers go through similar things. But then you grow a thicker skin, realise that what people say on your blog doesn’t make you a failure in life and a hopeless case. You get some perspective and you get a bit tougher. And in my five years of blogging I’ve not really had too much trouble, either on Twitter, or Facebook or on my blog.
But Dawson’s plight has caused me to reassess my approach to the nasties. I don’t think they should be tolerated. And I’m not alone. A lovely acquaintance of mine (we’re both former Courier-Mail bloggers), Emily-Jade O’Keefe, has recently turned the comment section off altogether on her blog.
“I’ve recently changed my blog to not allow any comments AT ALL. I did this because I am too sensitive to deal with the trolls. It was my way of coping with the situation. One horrid comment, let alone many would fill my head all day and I found it very very difficult to recover and move on. That’s just me and my personal issues and although it grieves me that I now don’t have a conversation on my personal blog with the people who did contribute appropriately, the trolls often ruined a perfectly good day, their words ruled my thoughts more than the good words I had recieved and then I found it difficult to write or contribute anything at all, like for days, or weeks even.”
One of the most popular blogs in the mummy blogosphere, WoogsWorld – who only ever writes witty, hysterically hilarious posts – also takes a hard line on these online vermin.
“On twitter, I delete and block, no chances. Same with Facebook. IF I get to nasty blog comment in time, I delete it, but sometimes my readers jump in and it all goes to shit, so I delete ALL OF THE COMMENTS, and post a note saying sorry to my readers but I cannot have that on my site.”
And then, today’s post on Mamamia.com.au, the uber-site for all things interesting and funny:
“From now on the Mamamia Team and our Community Moderators will be more actively deleting any comments that are rude or disrespectful to the author, to the MM team or to other commenters. This includes comments that are mean-spirited, aggressive, snarky, bitchy and comments that try to bait, mock or taunt other commenters or Mamamia staff.”
And I’m coming around to that view. Why should I give over valuable space on my blog – and more importantly, in my life – to people who are only interested in destruction and negativity?
Social networking has so much potential to do good, but like a garden that requires regular weeding, trolls need to be yanked out and thrown in the garbage heap so the rest of us can enjoy the good bits. And maybe if we all took this view, well, the trolls would disappear quietly into the night. Well, it’s nice to dream, at least!