Disarming emotion-based trolling, but still learning from them

Friday 1 January 2021 - Filed under Default

Popquiz hotshot. What. Do. You. Do?

Every great story contains conflict. Rocky vs Apollo. Indiana vs Nazis. Jaws vs those pesky humans. The best stories resolve that conflict and leave you with that satisfied warm fuzzy everything-is-again-right-with-the-world feeling.

Reality, or whatever view we have of it, is far more miserly in this respect. Masters of propaganda understand this when they weaponize their conflict-product to rally their troops. Anger as satisfaction? Bear with me.

While frenzy-making might work on the battlefield, the issue is that the battlefield is disappearing, becoming obsolete replaced by an ephemeral mix of attention, social proof, mindshare, identity, belonging, and tribe. There are no bridges or hilltops or body count for online warmongers. Everything they care about is neatly summarized in the analytics.

For the footsoldier, there’s only so much memeing and trolling you can do before you give up and play Among Us, drifting in space on an imaginary, self-destructing vessel, improving skills of betrayal and deceit. (is this troll training?)

And most people don’t post, they lurk. So what about them/us? What should we do?


It’s a red flag when one group demonizes another, blaming them for all their problems, calling them names. When a post sets my blood a-simmer, I think of the cartoon Little Bill’s response to the neighborhood bully.

So? And?

In that episode, he learns to disarm the bully by accepting and dismissing his abuse. Eventually the bully learns his taunts have no power and moves on.

Stoics, ancient philosophers whose ideas have enjoyed a steady presence guard the power to get upset for themselves, not permitting others to access their buttons. This is an important reservation when surrounded by memeing button-pushers. With the emotion discharged, it’s possible to do real work. Real lurk?

To listen is to try and understand where others are coming from. How did they get here? Who do they follow? Where did they start? Where is their conflict? None of this is as easy as hitting like or share but the investment pays off in increased understanding.

Once I’ve seen enough, I can figure out where to put it. Did I learn something useful or not? Is this a concern for many, a circulating lie, an unpopular truth, an early indicator, trolling, flamebait? What does it mean for me?

How about you? What do you do when your blood reaches a full boil? What do you do when someone is appears wrong on the internet?

2021-01-01  »  David Sterry