Hello! [Insert .gif of waving hand]. This column is supposed to be about Internet culture, a phrase to which I wish I could respond, “What’s that?” in an innocent tone, looking up from the latest issue of The New Yorker, or possibly the Yale Lit Mag.
Alas, that would be a lie, because I know more about Internet culture than real culture at this point. At least according to my suitemates, who recently informed me that it was, quote, “sad and depressing” that sometimes I felt like my Internet friends understood me better than they did. Or even that I had “Internet friends” in the first place.
“Ha ha,” I said. “Ha! I’m just trolling, guys!”
To which they gave me five identical blank looks, looks that said, “We are not losers like you. We do not have first-degree burns on our thighs from the continuous overheating of our MacBooks. We do not know what ‘trolling’ is.”
And I realized that if I wanted my future to include anything other than me, living in my parents’ basement with five cats and my half-melted laptop for company, something needed to change. Not me, of course, — because I can stop going online any time I want, OK, in fact I could throw out my computer right now and it wouldn’t even bother me, except I don’t need to do that because I totally don’t have a problem — but them. “Them” being the people who do not distinguish between “online” and “RL,” who think that “avatar” is just this awesome movie about blue people, who get deeply offended by the comments on YouTube videos because they don’t realize that those people are trolling.
Let’s start with that. “Trolling” is the act of purposely saying or doing something offensive or inflammatory (online), watching people get offended (online) and laughing hysterically to yourself (as you sit in your mother’s basement, surrounded by your cats). In short, trolling is what DKE was probably doing with the whole chanting thing, which I know no one ever wants to talk about ever, ever again. Suck it up, and let’s analyze that example.
DKE brother: “Let’s make the rushes chant horrible, misogynistic things. LMAO!!!11!!1”
DKE brother #2: “LOL IRL. Awesome idea, dude! Everyone will shit themselves!”
DKE taps: “TROLLOLOLOLOL!”*
Women’s Center and other sane members of the Yale community: “HDU! We are incredibly offended.”
DKE, in unison: “ROFL.”
And then, not much later, “FML.” Because here’s the thing: While trolling on the Internet is anonymous and unpunishable, trolling in real life (IRL, as we say), is not. The sad, pathetic troll, trying to get his rocks off by being a massive douchebag and reveling in people’s justifiably angry reactions, is safe when he’s in the basement with his cats, but when he’s sitting there at 73 Lake Place, people can call him on his shit.
Experienced Internet denizens know that the best way to get rid of a troll is to ignore him, because attention is like a no-strings-attached BJ to a troll. But sometimes, the rules IRL are different. There’s probably a basement in the DKE house, but I don’t think they have cats down there, and what my point is with that overused analogy is that in real life, you can punish the trolls rather than just jerk them off.
And that’s a good thing. Because trolls sort of suck. They might not actually believe that Justin Bieber is a “fag baby” or that Barack Obama is racist against white people or that rape is totally LOLarious, but every time they act like they do, a little piece of society’s collective intelligence burns away like the skin of my laptop-abused thighs.
So when trolls emerge from their basement dungeons into the too-bright light of the real world, I say get out your pitchforks and go after them. Force them back to the YouTube comment pages from whence they came, and keep the grosser parts of today’s society where they belong: on the Internet.
And thus concludes this week’s unexpectedly and annoyingly moralizing Internet culture lesson. Sorry about that. Next time, only the LOLs. Cross my keyboard and hope to die.
- Go to YouTube. Search “Trollolololol.” It’s a meme.
“How dare you.”