"Maybe I'll eventually learn to give up these ghosts more quickly."

I do not get where they're coming from. They arrive like non-sequiturs into the conversation, off-topic, sometimes even off-color. I at first think I've tumbled into a simple misunderstanding. I might take almost forever to finally figure out that this was never a misunderstanding. It was sabotage, clear and simple. Well, not clear to me at first, but ultimately simple. They seem to take some strange kind of power from diverting the flow. Their superpower seems to be the curious ability to undermine any flow. I finally exhaust my ability to make anything like a Most Generous Interpretation because I finally figure out that generosity isn't part of any troll's vocabulary. They specialize in leaping into a Least Generous Interpretation. They parse an analogy literally, then head off to rebut a comment never actually made. They seem to love being maddening.

My earliest attempt at social media, a wiki called PureSchmaltz, was ultimately brought low by anonymous posters who sprinkled obscene photographs throughout the content.
Rather than construct another complicated password protocol, I just took the whole thing down. The purpose of the intrusion seemed to me to be nothing more than disruption, to generate that self-satisfaction only destroying something that doesn't belong to you produces. It's a budding megalomaniac's sort of satisfaction. That's my post-hoc Most Generous Possible Interpretation. The assault seemed simply malicious. I have no other explanation for it. I would still be wondering Why Me? had I not simply withdrawn from the field.

I started a Yahoo! Group after The Blind Men was published, and many fine discussion threads bloomed. I only ever had one troll intrude there, an endlessly argumentative presence whom The Muse insisted simply could not relate to the topic at hand. If I remember correctly, he was a very experienced professional who, as near as I could tell, had never once experienced our shared profession as I had. He quickly moved toward the nasty, insisting that I must be some sort of idiot because I experienced my world differently than he experienced his. I could only be wrong. His postings felt like slaps in the face, though I tried hard to not take them personally, I knew that he intended for me to take them personally. He seemed to be in the business of taking me down. Maybe I posed a clear and present threat. Maybe I really was a complete idiot. Who knows? I finally, after an overlong period of off-line background insistences from others who were pained at his poisonous presence, banned him from the conversation. I suspect he was as relieved as I was.

It takes me a very long time to finally tumble to the innate ill-will any troll brings to any conversation. I seem to need to cycle through four or five stages of disbelief before I ultimately conclude what might have been obvious from the first intrusion. This was never just an innocent misreading of the thread. It was from the outset, an attempt to upset the flow. The troll knows nothing but disruptive arts. He's not trying to prove any point, but undermine whatever's being considered. He ignores the normal rules of logic and courtesy in favor of throwing shit pies at whomever's convened the conversation. I suspect that he gets his jollies from believing that he's humiliated The Man. It's a sad, sad story however I parse it.

I finally unfriend, realizing that he was never my friend nor my enemy, but a pernicious irrelevance instead. With the velocity of social media conversation, even a small slick spot can disrupt a whole lot of flow, and once disrupted, flow can be incredibly difficult to reestablish. I think it no kindness for me to even try to understand. It might be reasonable to offer up to three strikes before calling any suspected troll out. More than that and I will eventually feel like an ill-used tool, too understanding, too forgiving, no longer an upstanding citizen, but a somehow degraded presence in my own freaking living room. I might make up any number of excuses for my tolerance of these intolerables, but each sounds like an excuse which explains nothing and excuses even less. I humbly apologize (again) for extending the questionable benefit of doubting what was obvious from that first funny-smelling post. Maybe I'll eventually learn to give up these ghosts more quickly.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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