You People

Click through for a really interesting (if somewhat disturbing) study on modern day trolls. Yes, they exist!

Click through for a really interesting (if somewhat disturbing) study on modern day trolls. Yes, they exist!

Today I experienced something new, but unfortunately it wasn’t very nice; I was trolled. Without going into it a great deal, I’ll say that it was a series of vaguely threatening messages via Facebook PM, starting and ending with accusations that made no sense. At first, I thought that I’d actually done something somewhere online to upset the person, and was really apologetic, but it soon became clear that this wasn’t the case.

During our short exchange, one of the things the troll wrote to me was “You people are so full of yourselves.” It was completely out of context with the rest of the conversation, but that’s probably what made it so effective in her little psychological skirmish. In fact, I’m still having trouble getting it out of my mind. To whomever could the troll be referring? People who like it when everyone’s relatively polite to each other? People who appreciate not being scared out of their wits by weird, threatening FB messages? I don’t know who she thought she was talking to, but mostly I just feel sad that she was too blind to understand.

Umm, yeah.

Umm, yeah.

Most of my life I wasn’t cool enough to fit in with a crowd. I couldn’t be part of a “you people”. But now that I’m older, I’ve finally got a tribe. I know the people I’ve chosen to include in my life, and they’re thoughtful, open-minded, progressive, and almost to a person some of the most understanding and empathetic humans I’ve come across. I’m attracted to their light, like I hope that they’re attracted to mine. We’re mostly nerdy and quiet, and none of us are going to change (that much of) the world, but my “you people” is awesome. The members of my “you people” would NEVER try to scare a person for kicks, or say cruel things while hiding behind their computer monitors. Maybe that’s because most of us were bullied as kids, and learned pretty early that bullies are the worst. They are to be pitied for their lack of humanity, and ignored whenever possible. It’s how we survived. We’ve still got battle scars, but we’re alive, strong, and successful.

Ruminating on this reminded me that I was due for another Beautiful You post, and it just so happens that today’s is all about confronting the negative things other people have said about you over the years. The theory is that we internalize what we hear, whether we want to or not. If someone calls us ugly or fat or stupid, even if we don’t believe it, our minds hold on to that information and replay it from time to time to see if the data is true or not.

For me, there are four specific things I can think of that impacted how I saw myself as a child, and probably still today:

1) When I was about 9 or 10, I visited my paternal grandmother (my Nana) late one afternoon. That morning she’d had a tooth pulled, and she was in a bad mood. She took one look at me and told me that if I kept gaining weight, I was going to have a double chin. I’ve been obsessed with my chin fat ever since, which is stupid because it’s actually quite well defined – and singular.

2) In 4th grade, I got my first pair of glasses. They were huge and red, like Sally Jesse Raphael’s (anybody else remember her?). One of the boys in my class, Blake, picked on me a lot. He started calling me “Red Rims” and everyone else followed suit. I grew to hate my glasses, and I’ve never really gotten happy with myself in them, though I still wear them all day, every day. I’d really love to get Lasik sometime soon.

Really? You've seriously never heard of Sally Jesse Raphael? Click the image for the Wiki link.

Really? You’ve seriously never heard of Sally Jesse Raphael? Click the image for the Wiki link.

3) In 6th grade, I was being picked on a lot. Blake was still picking on me every day (let’s just clear this up though – he’s gotten a lot nicer as he’s gotten older, and I’ve come to realize he might have just had a crush on me). He threw broken pencils at me, called me names, and was generally an ass any chance he could get. But his friend Adam was worse. Adam hit and tripped me every chance he got, and called me “Pigeon Lip” because I had an overbite. That one stuck around, and even followed me into public school the next year, since he was friends with a kid in my grade at the new school. I’ve hated my mouth since then. I’ve had Invisalign, but my teeth aren’t movie star straight, and that’s not good enough for me. I’m pretty sure that my current obsession with getting braces again stems from my days as Pigeon Lip.

4) In 4th through 6th grade, a girl named Shelby picked on me daily. She mostly commented on my clothing and accessories, and pointed out to the other kids how poorly I was dressed. My family didn’t have much money, so most of my clothes were hand-me-downs or from yard sales, and the ones that weren’t were from Super 10 or (if we were splurging) Wal-Mart. I’d get one pair of sneakers to last the school year, and if they got holes we’d just tape them up or do whatever could be done to make them look presentable until the next year rolled around.

Since most of the kids I went to school with were comfortably middle class, if not wealthier, Shelby wasn’t the only one to notice that I didn’t fit in. But she was the only person who rubbed my nose in it in front of people at every opportunity, eventually getting them into the action. I can’t stand being dressed shabbily. I’m not a fashionista, but when something is worn out, or out of date, or not in style, it has to go. I have a lot of anxiety over my wardrobe, and that’s probably why when I get dressed up in regular outfits that look nice, I often visualize myself putting on a costume. Pretty clothes are like armor for me. Like maybe the bullies can’t see me.

The truth is that I have great taste in clothes, people always tell me that my slightly uneven teeth are “cute”, my glasses give my face character, and I’ve tried out the getting fat thing, and STILL NO DOUBLE CHIN (ha! take that!). The things that people picked on me about when I was younger were just silly little nothings, brought on by their own insecurities. Blake was as unhappy at that school as I was. Adam had just moved to town from Ohio, had an unhappy home life, and was trying to assert some kind of dominance over the class. Shelby was obese and unattractive, and wanted to prove she wasn’t a loser by pushing someone else around. Nana had just had a tooth pulled – honest, she was always super sweet otherwise!

Beautiful You says to replace the things that these people said with better lessons that I can carry around in my psyche. Lessons like: “you’ve got kissable lips”, “those glasses make you look quirky”, “love your style – it’s really brave”, or “glad you inherited my side of the family’s great bone structure!”

It’s OK, I already know. My you people have been telling me.

How To Know If You’re An Insufferable Twit (#1: Trolls)

Inspired by a recent conversation in real life, I’m starting a new series here on Compass & Quill called “How To Know If You’re An Insufferable Twit.” I’m sure I could come up with 20 things right now if I took a few minutes to ponder the issue, but at the moment I’d just like to address one major sign: trolling your REAL LIFE FRIENDS on social media.

No, I’m not talking about people who leave clever and/or asinine comments for the joke of it. I’m talking about people who deliberately (or maybe not deliberately – maybe they’re just obtuse) mistake every social media post as the perfect chance to start an argument, and jump in with guns blazing. If this is something you do, make no mistake, it’s highly disconcerting to most of the rest of us. It’s also incredibly rude.

How can you avoid becoming a troll twit, you ask? It’s pretty simple, provided you have a moderate grasp of reality and realize that it’s not ALL ABOUT YOU.

First, realize that most of the time, unless people are posting statements directly to your wall, they’re not seeking to incite a riot when they post an idea or article to their FB pages. They’re simply sharing something that that makes them laugh, ponder, or reflect. Take a look – is the article entirely benign? Are you feeling testy anyway? Do not comment. Just walk away and go find a better battle to fight elsewhere on the web.

If you’re still not sure whether your friend posted this article or idea as an invitation to argue, study the subject matter in relation to your friend’s personality. For instance, if the person is a Grateful Dead fan and they post a Grateful Dead song to their page, they probably aren’t looking to get into an argument about the evils of the legalization of pot (not on this post, anyway). Similarly, if a person is spiritual and likes to talk about upbeat things, then posts an article about an exceptionally inspiring person with a message of peace, they probably aren’t looking to get into a discussion about how misguided the news outlet that ran the story is. At this point, if you can see that your friend posted a story innocently, but it still makes your blood boil for whatever reason, by all means share the story on your own page and start a dialogue there.

Is your friend argumentative, with a proven love of controversial posts? By all means, comment away, and bully for you for finding a sparring partner.

Of course, the best course of action, if you aren’t too self-absorbed and irrational to grasp it, would be to keep replies short and sweet, be calm and rational, and think nothing but kind thoughts as you comment – even if you’re attempting to “correct” your friend’s concept of life. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy, well-founded conversation via social media, especially not if you’re talking to a person you love and admire. Friends should be able to have opposing viewpoints, after all.

But friends shouldn’t have to put up with angry, misanthropic asshats who take every opportunity to claim the moral high ground and go on the offensive. It wasn’t polite before social media, and it’s certainly not polite – or normally even warranted – in this day and age. Being more intimately connected with the thoughts of our friends does not give us leave to make little of them. Instead, it gives us a chance to build stronger bridges, and discuss bigger ideas. We have the opportunity to remain civil and sensitive to the needs of our fellow humans. If you’ve got your fingers in your ears, jumping up and down on the heads of the people who love you best, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

And you’re an insufferable twit.