Most of us who are not ‘bots or people who write nasty, misleading, divisive or otherwise questionable material on open forums (because they’re being paid to do so or because they simply prefer sharing their opinions in a nasty, misleading, or divisive manner) are horrified on a regular basis by the things that people are willing to communicate to other people when they don’t have to confront them in person.
A lot of hand-wringing is being done about this and how it can be reined in, but I don’t see any way of stemming the tide: they are too many, too diverse in their means and their purposes, and we often don’t agree on who they are in the first place. Trolls seek to upset, to confuse, to provoke – and they will always win, for the simple reason that you and I care, and they do not.
So what to do? One thing, at least, suggests itself: there are trolls in real life, but they are fewer by far, and their behavior generally disqualifies them in a way that it never can in cyberspace. Thus, the time we spend reading and agonizing over other people’s opinions (condensed into, at most, a couple hundred words) would surely be better used by meeting people, donating our time, money, energy – whatever we can spare – to helping fix the things we feel are wrong. In essence, to do that which trolls by definition cannot.
When we sit before our screens for long enough we feel weak, ineffectual, as if the world is closing in on us . . . and as long as we remain in our places, those things are true – and regrettably, many of those who shape our lives these days are happy to have it just so. However, when we do something – participate in the world, in however small a way – those feelings immediately lose their validity. We may never win a battle, we may never achieve our goal, but when we can say that we did what we could, it’s enough.