Thursday, September 22, 2016

Don't Feed The Trolls

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster." - Nietzsche

As a regular internet contributor, you could say that I've seen my fair share of trolls. As an outspoken female writer, industry critic and professional athlete, I've also had the pleasure of experiencing the worst of them. From the laughably weak personal attacks to the truly deranged death threats, the insanity spectrum is wide, deep and often colored with different shades of psychopathy.

I've learned to laugh. My sense of humor has become sharp, my perspective truly macabre. I often assume that every engagement will turn sour, and a disagreement is never a disagreement. I await abusive messages in my inbox with a mix between trepidation and rage, then laugh at the expectedly rudimentary and simplified criticisms from (mostly) men who delight in not only telling me how to do my job or what to think, but also how dumb or stupid or useless I am. 

It's become the one constant in my life. 

But there's another side to this issue, on which I continually battle myself: to engage or ignore? 

Now, a lot of trolls are put in their place by simply ignoring them and deleting their comments. Their egos are crushed by the fact that I simply do not care, and they fade back into the dark spaces from whence they came, only to emerge somewhere else. A few others are easily moderated by the audience of a community, quickly cowed and put back into their place by people dedicated to keeping a certain site or page friendly and open and free of hatred or nonsense. 

But there's always one or two I can't resist knocking down myself, and there's where my personal mire begins -- I'm unable to resist. Chalk it up to a belief that bullies only respond to strength (or a firm, fact-based bitch slapping), but I often find myself pulled into some entirely worthless waste of time, explaining the truths of the universe to someone too stupid to understand them in the first place. 

Why do I do this? Why do I, despite my logical and very comprehensive understanding of the pointlessness in getting involved, still get involved?! 

I think it's very likely because 1: I'm stubborn, and 2: I'm an optimistic idiot who thinks that every monster can be fought. I also believe in defending myself. I don't think enough women do. I don't think that enough female contributors stand up, say their piece and then continue to fight for their right to say it without abuse. I stand up and continue fighting my detractors because I don't see enough of it -- I don't see enough women dedicated to themselves enough to not tolerate the bullshit. 

But I also see a dangerous double-edged sword. I see women who write something and then fade into the ether, terrified of the abuse, only to get more vitriolic hatred because they're perceived as 'weak' for not fighting back. I've been there. I've written something and then stepped away for weeks at a time with the full intention of not engaging, only to be yanked back to reality by hateful messages to my website or to be warned by one of my team managers that they've received some startlingly scary correspondence about me. Not addressing something or someone is an invitation to escalation, apparently. 

The second is the overtly aggressive tactic: go on the offensively defensive side and scare everyone enough that they're terrified I might eat them for breakfast. As you might expect, that doesn't end well, either. Escalating every situation into conflict where I end up using the combined power of the Internet and my extensive vocabulary to humiliate and break someone down just makes me look like an asshole. Actually, it makes me a real asshole. I become the troll, battling it out with the random jackass who, in other people's eyes, should have just been ignored. And it makes me feel like a jerk... Every single time. Exposing the details of what makes someone else into a bully or a troll isn't fun, and it isn't right. In the day and age of Google and unlimited information, it's always fairly easy to figure out and exploit someone's motives and weaknesses, but it's not okay. Taking what hurts them most (because that's usually the behavior behind bullying) and using it to hurt them again? That's wrong. It doesn't ever get easier to do and it never creates a better outcome. It doesn't foster positive commentary and it certainly doesn't create a stronger online community. It isolates and alienates, until the only people who want to interact are the trolls and miscreants because they haven't yet experienced someone who will shut them up. And that sucks. I don't want to be the last door to hell for anyone. That isn't my job. My job is to share my sport, promote healthy growth, spread stoke and build a sustainable, productive industry that continues to inspire people to ride bikes. 

At the same time, I can't just sit back and allow myself to be one more voice that's been drowned out by the idiot masses who would rather scream profanities than tolerate a different perspective. That's the goal -- to silence dissent and to quiet intelligent and critical thought. To troll is an effort to make others stop expressing themselves for fear of abuse or being ostracized or laughed at. And once those voices stop speaking, we get what we currently have: unproductive and unsustainable group-think that leads to the death of an industry. 

In the end, it's always a lose-lose-lose for me. As an athlete, as a professional, as someone who believes in standing up, I'll lose. As a human who believes in treating people with compassion, I lose. As someone who doesn't want to even deal with this crap, I still lose. Either way, I'm weak or I'm mean. Helpless or 'too aggressive'. Pitiful and open to even worse, or 'indefensible' because my behavior is no better than theirs, and ultimately hated, regardless of my actions.

So what's a girl to do? 

If you figure it out, let me know. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dear Trump Supporters

My dear, fine, fellow American citizen who is openly and publicly supporting Donald Trump for President Of the United States Of America, I beg of you: soldier on. 

Your solidarity, appreciation and outspoken endorsements of Donald J Trump are a breath of fresh air. I respect not only your resolve to wholeheartedly support the candidate to whom you feel so closely attuned, but your continued commitment to educating and informing the world about what makes him your candidate, too. 

I'll be honest: as an independent voter who is female, educated and probably prone to being targeted by your specific demographic, I agree that my enthusiastic support of you exercising your constitutional rights seems a bit... Suspect. But I promise you that I'm completely sincere in my deepest wishes for you to continue your valiant efforts.

'Why?!', you must be asking. We're supposed to be enemies, after all. Oh, I know. But these politics, they divide, don't they? However, I have a few reasons why I'm such a fan of your outspoken Trump-ian-ism. 

First of all, those yard signs? Probably the best invention since Christianity painted Jesus as a white, blue-eyed savior, amirite?! You like them because they shout about your deeply-held and culturally-oppressed values and I like them for the same reason! After all, they're going to make it very easy on me this Halloween as I intentionally avoid taking my nephews anywhere close to you or your house. 

The bumper stickers are similar, too -- they carry some real 'oomph'! I find them very appealing when paired with the fuzzy dice testicles or even that fancy molded ballsack hitch your cousin Jeb gave you for Christmas, but most effective when matched with an oversized truck that spews black smoke because fuck the environment! Drill baby, drill. I like that you can appreciate the business cred of someone like Trump, who not only builds entirely useless and gaudy piles of gold-slathered shit, but undercuts governmental standards in pay, health care and even the basic protections of his foreign employees. I really admire your economic acumen and Walmart habit -- not everyone can wear THAT much Duck Dynasty swag as they roar into the parking lot shouting about how Hispanics are stealing our jobs. 

You know what I really love the most, though? The thing that really does it for me? Your social media. 

Now, we all know that interconnectedness has been a thing since the late 90s when AOL messenger really exploded, but I commend the maverick cowboy style you've adopted during Trump's candidacy -- you give no fucks, and you ain't sorry. That post about how Hil is such a c**t and the feminist lesbian bitches who support her should all get raped and die and you'd do it yourself, but there's not enoughto go  around?! Uh-MAZING. Or the one (that was probably a lie, now that I think about it), describing how you physically assaulted and harassed a Muslim high school student in a parking lot?? Come ON! Crazy mad respect, you gangster you. Do you know why I hold these in such high regard? Why, because you make them so easy to capture and share, of course! Friends, family, law enforcement... You get the point. After all, it takes balls of steel to openly brag about and promote racism, hate crimes, discrimination and genocide, which is probably why that bitch from HR will wander in and tell you that you're fired tomorrow. Because you're a stone-cold badass on Twitter, pal, and you're calling it like you see it!

But GOD! Doesn't it just feel so good to get it all out? You've been holding it back for so long, and all that white supremacy truth is really hard stuff to conceal. But now, you've got a presidential candidate saying it, so who cares about how it affects you, right?! It's not like they can take your job... Or your kids... Or that your wife/girlfriend/partner/family/friends will all suddenly realize that you're a homicidal, terrified little bigot and suddenly up and leave you. That's just crazy talk. 

Because actions don't have consequences in the real world. And people are too sensitive anyway. 

So you keep flying that freak flag, you maniac...

The rest of us appreciate y'all identifying yourselves for the first time in a very long while. Out here in a well-adjusted, non-delusional society, your kind have no place. As you pine away for a time that never occurred and a culture that didn't exist, everyone else is adapting and changing and innovating as we move towards a united human front where we confront less mundane concerns (the worry about 'PC culture' amid your rising homophobia and racism) and tackle the really big issues, you know, like how our planet is dying due to continued abuse and exploitation or the widening economic gap crippling communities and stalling production around the globe.

It helps to know right off the bat that we can count you out; we're now fully aware that you'll be sitting around stabbing signs into your yard and angrily slamming on the keyboard about dudes and buttholes and bitches wearing shoes and rag heads (whatever that even is -- perhaps it's the doll that you hug at night as the specter of your own fear and woeful inadequacy tears it's way through your psyche?). 

We thank you for that. Because while you focus on singling out skin colors and building walls, the rest of us are shaking hands, building bridges and embracing science that has shown human genes to actually be race-less... Luckily for you, it's also similar science that'll save your miserable ass from kicking the bucket (unfortunately) when those cheddar chicken wings and beer catch up to your heart and liver and you're begging for an organ donation. 

So keep on keepin' on, you human pieces of waste. We appreciate you identifying yourselves and encouraging us to build a smarter, more productive society... Without you.