Internet trolls and other masters of malice we meet on the Web can ruin a writing day — and even a career. We all know we shouldn’t “feed” the trolls, but that’s easier said than done. Especially if the trolls are telling lies about you or attacking your readers and making you look complicit.
This week I had a Facebook friend request from a guy whose page consisted of anti-Semitism, threats of violence, and a generous sprinkling of swastikas. I get stupid friend requests all the time, but this one triggered me. My dad was one of those guys who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He risked his life to save us from these Bozos. I wanted to tell this Nazi to go back to his Führerbunker.
Luckily my better angels guided me to hit the “dismiss” button and click away. But I was still angry. Why would a Nazi send me a friend request? What about my Sandra Boynton cartoons and funny cat pictures made him think I shared his views?
Then I realized that of course he didn’t think. Because he wasn’t real. This was a bot, put on Facebook to promote chaos, distrust and anger, and maybe connect with a wealthy Neo-Nazi widow or two to scam out of her life savings. “He” had two first names like the romance-scam catfish — a sign the people who put up the fake profile didn’t understand how English names work. The photos of him brandishing weapons were probably lifted from a gun catalogue.
If I’d “friended” him, no doubt swastikas, guns, and lies would have appeared on my page. Not just to destroy my reputation, but to cause turmoil and stress for all my friends.
The experience left me feeling wary and unsafe. And of course that’s what the perpetrators wanted.
It’s what trolls do. I had let them get to me.