Once upon a time there were three goats and a troll. Remember this fairy tale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff?
The story goes like this. The little goats are minding their own business, grazing on luscious Norwegian grass. When their supply is depleted, they must cross a bridge to get to the abundant meadow on the other side.
Underneath the bridge lurks a nasty troll who threatens to devour anyone crossing over. This time, however, he is outwitted by a formidable foe. Blessed with street smarts, the goats are able to talk their way out of being eaten. The troll grumbles to himself and slithers back to his subterranean real estate, where he lives a sad and solitary existence for the rest of his days.
In modern day parlance, a troll is something different. Equally odious, yes, but instead of living underneath a bridge, the Internet troll stalks selected people or groups online and attempts to be disruptive.
In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.
Who’s got a troll? I’ve got a troll.
My troll first appeared on Twitter a few years ago. She followed me and after I read her profile I followed her back. Since we shared certain similarities (we were writers, roughly the same age, adult children) I didn’t hesitate, although it seemed unusual that I didn’t “know” her through other social media. Nonetheless, our occasional Twitter exchanges were normal.
But then I noticed that she was commenting on just about every one of my tweets.
At first it was just annoying. But then it began to get weird. She did the Twitter equivalent of photo bombing, inserting herself into conversations I was having with other people. Her comments became personal, nasty and critical.
Totally creeped out, I blocked her. Good riddance.
Several months ago someone new started to pop up in the Comments section on my blog. The commenter was highly critical of my work, pointing out what she perceived to be numerous errors and poor writing. Weirdly, she referenced specific passages from posts I had written years ago.
She has read everything I have written online, I realized.
Ignore her and block her, was the advice from my blogging friends. That is what I did. I also inserted a new paragraph on my About Me page with my terms of engagement. In essence, be civil and kind, or get out of my house.
But last week she was back. She kept her name (a pseudonym, I am certain) but changed her email address slightly. I stared at her comment, again, her disapproval of my writing. Like all her comments, it was dripping in sarcasm.
This time I contacted my website host and, through the miracle of technology, the host was able to give me her identity. The blog troll and the Twitter troll are one and the same.
According to an article in Psychology Today, Internet trolls are narcissists, sadists and psychopaths. Many would agree with that assessment, especially those of us directly harassed by one. It may or may not be true of the woman who is trolling me, but at the very least she has an unhealthy obsession with me and has nothing better to do with her time than stalk me … and likely others as well.
As the pieces fell into place, I realized it was also this person who left a couple of mean comments about me on another site that had interviewed me for a profile piece. She Googled my family to get more information and mentioned that in her comment.
She is undoubtedly reading this post, so I will speak directly to her:
I know who you are. I feel sorry for you and your obsession with me. We will never be friends, and I will keep blocking you from my site every time you muscle your way in.
My three words of advice for you: Get. A. Life.