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07 March, 2012

I Troll You So


My Internet persona is a more amplified, polarising version of my real-life self. There are many schools of thought on people's behaviours online and what they're like in the flesh and I'm under no illusions - I'm different online than I am in the flesh. People who say they are the same are bullshit artists.

My Mum used the term social media the other day while on the phone talking about me. It's getting to that stage where it's universally recognised as a channel. Here's a digital media prediction - in twenty years social media will be bigger than TV, but then, the two might be indistinguishable from each other in twenty years time. Shut up Marshwah, you're not at work at the moment anyway.

To people that meet me casually, and then are exposed to my online persona, it can be a bit of a surprise. I'm a bit more seasoned than most of these neophytes. And happily tell the few that listen that I had an online diary before they were called blogs, and I'll be damned if I'm changing my style now. Then The Webslinger blows the barrel of his gun, and rides off into sunset. A keyboard hero.

Heroes have enemies. And my online persona has netted its fair share. These are trolls.

At Primary school I vaguely remember the tale of the Billy Goat's Gruff. It had something to do with some goats, crossing a bridge, and a pesky creature called a troll that lived under the bridge. I doubt this was the first time a troll was coined in the English language, but the thought of a loathsome creature, thriving in the dark, and feeding on fear seems to be a pretty accurate rendition of the online equivalent.

Can you see the bastard?

In this ongoing tale, I've clearly taken up the mantle of keyboard hero. Sure, my persona is parts of my personality that I choose to accentuate. But I put myself out there and put a face to it. It's a conscious decision I make every time I post a public piece of information on the Internet. And often its confronting. That's the way I like it and have lived.

The complete opposite of this approach is enshrouding one's self in anonymity. I have no problem with this, and respect people who aren't quite as open as I am online. But unfortunately, anonymity is often the chosen stomping ground of your garden-variety troll. I say garden-variety, because this is pretty standard stuff. I've been acting and carrying on online for over a decade, and I'm not that easily shocked any more.

A blogger I like, Sam De Brito, wrote a tweet the other day about the best way to handle them: it's to ignore them. He's writing on a scale I can only imagine, and must encounter some truly messed-up online trolls. And that's still his approach.

As I ramp up my social media efforts in an attempt to promote my upcoming book, I'm taking on this advice. As announced in my latest YouTube video, I'll be seeding out the opening segment of the book, Being Bi-Bi. I'm looking forward to seeing my attempts escalating and learning along the way.

My experiences thus far have been a lesson, and unlike trolls, the quality of my work will only continue to improve.