For about 5-10 years, I was largely known for getting massively publicly (and privately) harassed on the Internet. It was constant; and I was getting literally famous for that shit! Trolling on my blog, threats of violence & death…all types of nasty anonymous emails, Twitter DMs, Facebook messages, etc. The best was when one blogger or another would just focus on me exclusively, directing massive torrents of hate my way; that was awesome.
Shortly after I had a “Punisher” story published (as I was largely a comic book commenter/editor/writer etc.), things had gotten so bad that 1) I stopped going to any type of public appearance, such as conventions, & 2) I was diagnosed with PTSD. I mostly ceased writing publicly online (though I did begin to write “privately” online).
Assuming this harassment was based on the fact that I was an “opinionated” female in a male-dominated industry, I turned to the feminists in my comics/fan community for support & backup. Unfortunately, a number of them apparently made the (quite loud & public) determination that I was insufficiently “feminist”/female to warrant much protection in this arena.
Feeling completely out of options, desperate, and too gun-shy to write under my own name again, I made a sudden decision. When a troll contacted me, I wasn’t going to freak out—but instead, engage them in honest-to-god conversation.
I mean…they had to be experiencing some degree of shittiness in their lives to feel the need to contact & berate a person they’ve never met. And, by coincidence, I was feeling pretty shitty myself anyways. So I thought: that was the basis for some great online chatting.
So I was like:
The funny thing was: it almost always disarmed the person (which seemed to be most often male) on the other end. They stopped being nasty. Some apologized. And best of all: I stopped feeling shitty! I stopped feeling upset and triggered and afraid. I met hostility with something between friendliness & goofiness…and it kinda worked in defusing the entire situation, many times over.
Now, I can’t say that I advise every harassed person to take my action dealing with online trolls. Because, like I said…I’m kind of a really goofy weird person anyway, and that may have played a part in calming shit down.
But the strangest, most interesting thing of all regarding this entire situation was: with that “fighting” energy defused, I kinda never got many trolling nasty messages again; neither public or private. And this was with me eventually not only getting back into blogging under my own name, but writing about pretty controversial subjects as well.
And I have to believe…that part of it was, I healed that hurt energy in myself. I healed it by reaching out to the people who were hurting me. I healed it by being really fucking real with them and just asking: “and how are you doing?” I healed it by throwing my ego away (albeit temporarily), not reacting defensively, not adding to that wheel of karma/chaos/conflict. And honestly, it has been one of the most instructive & interesting experiences of my life.
As for the circle of women I had initially turned to for support…they ended up getting 50x more nasty towards me. In fact, the only really memorable shitty private/public online harassment I have received over the last few years has been from, for the most part, not Angry Dudes On The Internet. And when I’ve tried to use my “conversational” techniques with these occasional new female trolls, it usually ends with them concluding I’m some sort of dangerous lunatic-maniac; which, honestly, is fine.
Anyway…this is the path I’ve taken on my online journey thus far. It’s been a long, strange trip. And I’ve actually found a new group of females I derive inspiration from—the scrapbookers & journalers on YouTube (I know, it all feels like the conclusion of some SCTV mock-documentary sketch starring Martin Short, doesn’t it?). Still feel too burned by my earlier experiences with the “Chicks n Comics” set to really participate in another largely woman-based community, but maybe one day.
Why am I writing this (especially on what’s supposed to be a goofy esoteric blog of weirdness)? I guess I’m trying to be real again. Maybe it’s working, maybe it’s not working, I dunno. Maybe people have gotten too real. Anyway, I’ve just been thinking about a lot of things. Things are nuts & nasty out there. But we gotta communicate. That’s all I know. There’s this wheel of karma/chaos/conflict inexorably turning, and the only way for it to stop in your life is to make a conscious decision to stop riding it; to stop feeding it.
That’s the only real way in the end to get some sort of peace, my friends: you have to stop riding that wheel. But stopping is hard. Because you’ve got an ego; everyone does. The ego gets hurt, the ego remembers. The ego’s only trying to look out for your wellbeing & protect you; but sometimes it overflows.
Real magick: that’s transmutation, man. That’s taking what might be this shitty situation full of angst and fighting and bad feelings & transforming it into something better. That’s the best magic trick I think I’ve performed yet. Maybe there’ll be more.