Why do we blog?
Nothing very political in this post. I’ve given a lot of thought the last few weeks about why I blog, about why many of us blog, about what we are looking for, what we’re hoping to accomplish.
Here’s how I personally got started in it. I started blogging a few years ago. I lost my dad to lung cancer when I was a kid, and my mom suffers today from COPD. I grew up with asthma and chronic bronchitis — all the result of their heavy cigarette smoking. After my mom was hospitalized a few years ago for the umpteenth time with pneumonia, I was deeply depressed about it; about all the damage I had seen tobacco do to my family. So, I started up a blog … about how much I hate tobacco and how much I hate the industry. It was very cathartic.
Well, that blog is still around. I don’t update it as much as I used to, maybe a couple of times a month, but that modest blog turned into so many things I never expected it to. I personally raised more than $1,000 this year for the Lung Association. I get lots of newsletters about tobacco issues from other advocates around the country and have spoken to well-known authors who have exposed the industry’s lies. I became addicted to learning more information about the issue and consider myself now a “lay expert” in tobacco and smoking issues. There have been massive changes to smoking and tobacco laws and regulation over the past five years, and of course, I’m not egocentric enough to think that I effected those changes, but I like to think I was involved. I was definitely in the midst of it.
So, that drifted into Topix blogging, which is incredibly counterproductive and oughta be renamed “Toxic.” It’s really ugly.
So, during the 2006 election, I drifted into HuffPost. I really liked it a lot at first. I was heavily invested in the election of Jon Tester and that was a special night when he and Jim Webb won.
I drifted away from HuffPost, mostly because an old computer of mine couldn’t handle the new forum format, but I started coming back this spring after I got a new computer. Of course, one of the big changes I noted from the old days was the prevalence of the trolls in the forums. There had always been trolls (I seem to remember an old one called “Angry Vietnam Vet”), but never like this.
But, there were also a lot of smart, nice people, too. Not real friends, of course, but the comfort of typing with friendly people is real. I started realizing that many times I was learning much more from the posters than the actual articles. For instance, 9 or 10 months ago, I honestly wasn’t clear on the difference between “public option” and “single payer.” Reading the forums made it clear to me the distinct differences between the two. I see so many smart and talented people with so much knowledge to share and I feel honored to be accepted by them because sometimes I don’t think I’m that smart.
Well, since then, the “trollology” of HuffPost has gotten even worse. The bannings, the “timeouts” (I’m currently serving one), the never-ending nastiness gets to me sometimes.
But, I have a confession to make. I actually enjoy tangling with the trolls sometimes. I get caught up in “going monkeyshit on their asses” so to speak. And what scares me is that I’m actually pretty good at it. I’m good at pretending I’m crazy. This isn’t me. I’m not that angry driver on the highway honking his horn and flipping people off for going 5 miles an hour under the speed limit.
And I absolutely know why. There’s no mystery to it. Because I really, really hate bullies. I really see trolls as the online equivalent of schoolyard bullies and I want to “get them.” They literally make me a little crazy. The old 5-foot-8, 165-pound hockey player who had to act “a little crazy” to play against goons 80 pounds heavier than me takes over.
Of course, I realize it’s utterly silly. I’m not stupid. The blogosphere is not the real world. Of course there are real people at those keyboards with real feelings, but trolls aren’t real. They’re actors. They’re playing a role. Maybe they’re paid, maybe they work for HuffPost, maybe they just get off on making people mad, who knows? It’s not important. I’ve become increasingly convinced that HuffPost is infested with a handful of trolls, using multiple sock puppets to look and sound like more people, with countless other minor trolls buzzing around. I’ve seen the “patterns in the chaos,” so to speak. One troll leaves, another one enters. It’s consistent. It’s all a game. A part of me is fascinated by it all. By the psychology of what drives these people. I’ve actually read articles on the psychology of trolls. I’m weirdly fascinated by what their objectives are. Attention? To undercut others’ morale? A paycheck? It’s unhealthy, whatever it is.
Then again, I find crazy people you bump into in the street or at the bar fascinating. I’m drawn to divergent personalities.
Ultimately, what I have discovered, however, is that if you attack the trolls, it’s futile – as much sick fun as it might be. Even if you blow one up, two will simply take their place. They are a permanent fixture of HuffPost now. I see the abject futility in that. I honestly do. And not what I started out to do when I began blogging, that’s for sure. Like someone here said, it’s just Internet paint ball.
So maybe I go looking for other places in the Internet Wilderness to drift to … friendlier places and more thought-provoking places.