Trolls offer more heat than light, more noise than thought, and more anger than anything else. Humans act like trolls sometimes, but i take it as a positive, albeit unpleasant, indicator of progress – the only advocacy apt to attract trolls is one attracting many others, and the anger often seems directly in proportion to the impact and traction of the message.
I actually had a fine and enjoyable debate with one deemed a Troll at the time – by myself and many others – recently, rather by accident on my part – we just ‘ran into each other’ both Tweeting at the same time on the same topic. Tweets flew in rapid succession, and we actually made some real progress – not exactly warm fuzzies, but we found some common ground and mutual respect, it seemed.
As a Psychiatric Nurse, I don’t look for mental illness everywhere – really! – and there was none evident in this individuals’ posts, but I do know from much experience that one presentation is often just a small facet of the whole person, surprisingly often open to change with respectful and gently positive influence. Unfortunately, as great as Social Media is for communicating and connecting in quantity, it remains relatively low quality compared to more direct interactions, in which prompt feedback for clarification can reduce the burden of misunderstandings and grudges, and empathy is far more easily achievable. My debate partner had made some surmises that were plausible in a way but inaccurate, e.g. that Amanda and her supporters must be union activists – traditionally unions have often been the ones to speak of unity, raising your voice, fighting for workers, etc. Now Social Media can take on some of these same tasks, without much of the baggage: regulations, the risks and pain associated with strikes and such traditional organized labor tactics, and the costs, caution, and slow reaction-time associated with bureaucracy. It is unsurprising that many people continue to see the familiar where it has been replaced by a new, very different animal with some common features to the old. Such misunderstandings are bound to fade with time and exposure and the continued growth and visibility of Social Media activities.
All Americans have much to worry about and work on these days, but we also live in deeply exciting times: for good and bad, anyone can present a public voice today – anyone with a cell phone. For those with computer access? Even more so. Folks like The Nerdy Nurse exert power and positive influence, and provide useful public services formerly provided only by those large organizations with the resources for expensive and often capital-intense reporting, advocacy, publishing, etc. Today, all theses have become virtually free in comparison, and the main cost remaining is individual time, which we may offer at will, requiring neither training, License or permission.
For Social Media activists, it is a sign of our growing success that angry letters to the newspaper of TV news editor, politician or NGO official are now falling on out virtual doorsteps increasingly often instead. Its an often irritating reminder that we have arrived: for this reason I thank and encourage trolls everywhere for their unwittingly inspiring posts. For this reason, I bear Troll’s anger and say, Viva Troll!