I read a number of vampiric community messageboards. Several of them include a forum for “troll baiting.” Posts made by abusive, or clueless, individuals are moved to this forum and other members of the board are given free rein to ridicule, abuse and denigrate the poster to their heart’s content, in this forum only. I suppose the intention is to divert the flamewars that often follow certain kinds of posts from the main body of the board. Whatever their intention, these “troll-baiting” forums are nothing but an excuse for self-indulgent and immature behavior of the worst sort by purported adults. The provoking posts are rarely worth bothering with at all, but the “troll-baiters” quickly surpass even the most abusive of their targets in sheer mean-spiritedness and infantilism. It’s amazing how much time some people have on their hands to waste on such trash.
Eight years ago, when I was running my own messageboard, and contributing to others, I tried to convince other moderators that there was only one way to deal with trolls, abusers and nuisance posters–only one, no exceptions. The problem posts are instantly deleted on sight and never discussed, replied to or mentioned ever again. Period. Trolls are usually trying to stir up conflict, and they thrive on flamewars–they get a tremendous sense of self-importance from upsetting other people on the messageboard. But no matter how often this scenario was repeated, and how much I tried to demonstrate to other moderators that they were contributing to the problem, not helping it, people in the OVC never learned. They continued to play suckers and fall into the trolls’ trap, every single time. Troll-baiting forums only corral the nonsense into a limited area.
For the most part, this would only be annoying. But recently I watched a “troll-baiting” unfold that had some very unsavory elements indeed. I won’t say which messageboard this was on, nor identify the principals involved. I stumbled across the thread because I was looking for updates in a different topic that had been moved into the troll-baiting forum.
A new member of the board, who stated that she was 14 years old, had responded to an “Intro” post by criticizing the poster’s grammar. Yes, it was a bit snotty–but no more than 14-year-old girls often are. If it had been my board, I’d have just deleted the post, no comment.
But of course, the purportedly adult suckers on the messageboard started sniping at the young person, and the whole thread was moved into the troll forum, where it proceeded to simply blow up–page after page of long posts attacking the young person for her subsidy-published book, her MySpace page, and other completely irrelevant things. They just wouldn’t let it alone.
Now, there’s nothing unusual about that–except that these were all self-proclaimed adults, ganging up on a 14-year-old. Not one of them seemed to feel they were doing anything inappropriate. The ringleader in the attacks was a 45-year-old (so claimed, anyway) who made lengthy posts diagnosing the young person as a “Narcissist” and expounding on why “Narcissists” could never change and are intolerable to be around. As far as I know, this 45-year-old is not a mental health professional and is not qualified to diagnose–although this 45-year-old evidently has extensive personal experience with mental health issues. As the 45-year-old continued to pummel the 14-year-old in this thread, I found myself getting more and more queasy. I hate the “troll baiting,” anyway. It’s stupid and juvenile, which is also how I’d characterize the alleged adults who indulge in it. But this went beyond that. For a 45-year-old to spend that much time and energy heaping public abuse on a 14-year-old for so little provocation was just…wrong. More than wrong, it was sick.
My main concern with the young person was the fact that she’d “borrowed” the name of my website, By Light Unseen, for her MySpace screenname. I reported this to MySpace and shortly afterwards the young person changed her screenname. As far as I was concerned, that settled things. I was curious enough to download the young person’s book, which was free of charge, from the subsidy publisher’s website. It’s…well, it’s stories written by a 13-year-old. But it could be far worse, and at least it’s not fanfic, that cancer of creativity that is draining the last vestiges of original thought from most aspiring writers these days. Predictably, the troll-baiters crowed that they deserved credit for the young person changing the screenname, although we have no idea why that happened. The troll-baiters also jeered at the young person’s listing her age, in her MySpace profile, as “100,” as though the young person was pretending to be an “immortal vampire.” The young person was claiming nothing of the sort. Many minors use ridiculous numbers for their age in their MySpace profile, because MySpace includes age in the page title. 14-year-old girls who don’t want to be harassed by creeps and perverts usually fudge their age. But this young person was honest about her age everywhere else.
The troll-baiters got bored and moved on, finally, and I’m sure that hapless young person will never trouble that messageboard again. Meanwhile, this news item appeared in my online news filters.
It’s difficult to imagine an adult, and the parent of a teenager, who could justify being that cruel and deceptive. She definitely has no business being a parent, I’m certain of that. I shudder to think of the model she has been for her own teenager. Whether the young victim would ultimately have committed suicide anyway–since there are numerous clues in the article that her life was filled with problems and she had a history of mental health issues and medications–is something no one can say. But when the victim’s mother says, “But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old, with or without mental problems, it is absolutely vile,” she is absolutely correct. Vile, and sick. How could anyone be an adult in America these days and still not realize that?