On Internet Trolls and Sifting Through the Vomit

What I’ve discovered over the past three months since I started Disco Pants is that there are two kinds of people who comment on your blog – there are the interesting, engaged and reasonable folk who, while they might not agree with you, have valid points to make and you’d have them around for dinner tomorrow for a fun discussion. And then there are those who are so cross about their lives they can barely believe the horror of their own existence, and for them, the internet has provided a very handy tool for unleashing all the anger they’ve been storing since they were seven and had to sit in the naughty corner even though it was their brother who set fire to the cat. And I know the common parlance for these sorts is internet trolls, but I rather think trolls is too nice a word for them. I mean, trolls are kind of cute. Take this guy for instance – I’d give him a cuddle and a cup of tea any day.

A huggable troll in Norway.
A huggable troll in Norway.

I think we have to find a new word – one that properly describes their poofiness, and for me Tokoloshe is that word. They are no longer internet trolls, they are internet Tokoloshes who come out of their hokkies in the middle of the night to scare the living daylights out of the normal people who forgot to put their metaphorical beds on bricks. Tokoloshes are freaking scary, man. Pepper Spray aint gonna cut it – you need some strong muti to save yourself from these things. And you’d be surprised at how many shapes and sizes they come in. Some of them are school teachers living in Australia (yep – bet you didn’t know Australia has Tokoloshes too), some are rich, young black men living in the UK (Tokoloshes alive and well in Marble Arch, people) and some are made of pap – the spineless kind who scream at you from behind the safety of their computer screens but are too cowardly to leave their names, and run away when you call them on their hexing.

Personally, I'd kak myself if this guy appeared in my room in the dead of night.
One of my readers.
Or him, for that matter. And this proves that Tokoloshes come in all shapes and sizes.
And another one, proving that Tokoloshes come in all shapes and sizes.

Tokoloshe made of pap

At first I used to think I had to engage with everyone who commented on my blog, but then a friend shared a useful analogy. She said, why catch everyone’s vomit? Because a lot of them are just vomiting. Sometimes they’re not even talking about the blog because I can tell they haven’t really read it. They just want to shout at somebody because, I suppose, they’re unhappy with their lives or they got a traffic fine that day or a bird pooped on the their shoe. And engaging with these mad invectives is a bit like sifting through the vomit looking for an intact Endearment. Why do it? There are loads of lovely people for whom my writing resonates, and it’s a joy reading what they have to say, and having them share their stuff with me. The others? Not worth the effort. So, now I have an assistant (a-hem) who reads my comments for me and simply trashes the crazies so that I can get on with the business of doing what I genuinely love.

And it’s a weird thing when people say (like one chick did yesterday) I HATE YOUR WRITING! STOP WRITING! I WISH WORDPRESS WOULD CLOSE YOUR BLOG DOWN! Because I just want to know why they’re reading it if it displeases them so much. There is SO much other stuff they could be reading instead, and I urge them, with all my heart, to step away from my blog. I don’t assume to appeal to everyone. Honestly, I don’t even think about my audience when I’m writing. I write what has meaning for me. I write about what moves me, and what is, ultimately, my personal truth, and it makes me happy to know that some of the things I say make sense to some people. But if these musings feel indulgent or vacuous or annoying, by all means MOVE ON.

After viciously attacking me, being contemptuous of my viewpoint and saying ‘what do you expect, anyway, of a blog called DISCO PANTS?!’ this same guy went on to comment 43 times. Why, with tears in my eyes? GO AWAY! Unfortunately, the nature of the internet is that there’s no way you can block these nasty, small-minded people, but you can blacklist them by marking them as spam which means they can’t comment anymore, thank god, and I’ve had to do that with a few. Oh, and then there’s this woman who calls herself doctor something or other (pretentious, much?) who doesn’t write anything of value, but leaves these half-threatening one-liners about how everyone HATES my blog which is going viral in a NOT GOOD WAY. And you think, god, Tokoloshe chick, what the hell happened to you in your life that you got so mean? You must go talk to someone man, it can’t be good for you, all this venom.

A new writer friend who contacted me because of my blog and with whom I enjoyed the most wonderful winey lunch yesterday said something terribly clever, and it was this: there are no new stories, but sometimes people will only resonate with it the way you tell it. What wise words. Nothing I say is new, but for whatever reason, people relate to it, or parts of it. And in this way we are conduits of truth for one other. When I am stuck or confused or pondering over something, a friend or an acquaintance will miraculously show up (in real life or on facebook) and answer the question for me, and I’m always amazed at how this type of synchronicity happens if you take the time to notice it.
So, to the many, many lovely individuals who take time out of their day to read this blog, and then write me sweet comments and e-mails or just offer their insights and stories – thank you! You make my day so sunshiny. And to all the internet Tokoloshes, I will now quote the fabulous Jack Parow (who’s also apparently had some trouble with these sad little people): HOSH TOKOLOSH, WAT SOEK JY IN MY BOS?!

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119 thoughts on “On Internet Trolls and Sifting Through the Vomit

  1. Susan your blog is fantastic and don’t let anyone else make you think otherwise! It doesn’t justify the behaviour at all but I think a lot of people in the social sphere don’t actually grasp the concept that there is a real live person on the other side of a blog or twitter handle. It’s like a venting/abusing thought that is heard nowhere else than in your head and usually just disappears but this time it’s put down in writing to an anonymous/unknown recipient and so the inconsequential effect is apparently the same to the individual. But of course it’s not. I’ve just done a lot of thinking about this because I regularly see the trolling that goes on on twitter, Instagram etc. And don’t get me started on the commentators on news sites like News24. Whenever there is a story involving homosexuality or race for example, the disgusting words that get spewed in the comments make me really angry!! It’s because there’s no face-to-face repercussions and cowards will be cowards from behind their keyboards. Here in the UK these days, the police are getting involved in a lot of trolling cases and arrests are being made. I say bring on tangible consequences for these “people”, the more the better….

  2. Sorry to hear that Susan. There are loads of whackos lurking on the internet. Don’t let them crush you. I find creativity is so delicate and precious and, when someone criticizes your art, it is as if they kicked a puppy or stepped on a budgie. It’s distressing and it’s hard not to let it get to you. I love your writing so just ignore those nutters who put graffiti on your blog.
    Julie xx

  3. excellent, I like your Jack sparrow quote, you definitely someone to meet one day, their are many people that would love what you say. it is real and you know reality well..cannot stop laughing using that term from now on internet Tokoloshe hahahaha

    On 7 November 2013 06:48, The Disco Pants Blog

  4. Well said, if they don’t like it why don’t they leave it (alone). We are loving your stories in the meantime. Thanks

  5. Am so enjoying your blog and have told quite a few friends to read it as well. Keep calm and keep writing! I can tell you really enjoy it and write with your heart. Go on with it…

  6. Don’t let the b*stards grind you down. We love reading your blog, it’s real, refreshing, rib tickling and relevant. Keep saying what a lot of people are thinking/feeling/experiencing but not articulating

  7. I look forward to reading you blog when I see it in my inbox! I love your writing- it’s fresh and funny– just what I need after dealing with 3 crazy children at home. You make me want to read more and more. Keep it up! You are lovely :)

  8. Gotta love your writing. I am now, today, absolutely stealing your words. Whenever I encounter another whine about anything on my FB groups, about the “horribleness” of living in SA, about the absolutely uninteresting, unvaried, uninspiring lives we are forced to live here, I’l just go “hosh, tokolosh”, and focus on the beauty and the good that many are choosing to see and acknowledge. There is so much of it out there, let the trolls starve, don’t feed them.

  9. Hi Susan, that’s both the beauty and the curse of user generated content! We get the good and the bad because people have different opinions about things. That’s great that they engage! I run my company’s social media channels and usually we give attention to the crap, and ignore the many good comments and complements, why is that? Forget about them and concentrate on us who love you baby!

  10. You have a real fan club in the Ryan household – we all love your quirky perspective on life – it resonates with the way we see things and you put into words what we only think about. Thanks for being a sunbeam in our too often grey world.

  11. I have a teen who just happens to be severely autistic and I have found the online autism community full of trolls. It is actually frightening that there is so much anger and bitterness out there and people are quick to judge when hiding behind their screens. Shudder. Anyhow, just want to say, I really enjoy your blog and it also takes my mind off my autism world. :)

  12. Love your blog and so many others do as well….keep it up! And for all those people who feel the need to drop in comments that are unconstructive “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself”…..so really their comments are just a reflection of themselves which is really not a good look for them. But we live in hope that one day they will grow up and attain a level of emotional intelligence that will allow them to integrate with the ‘grown ups’, until then we can just pity them.

  13. I agree there are too many scarily vile people out there who really do need some serious emotional help! And the internet is the perfect place for them to vent all that bitterness hidden behind anonymity – cowardly! I respect your bravery to put yourself in the firing line. So true what they say in Scotland ‘there is nothing stranger than folk’! lol

    1. Posted a comment to Sublime Essence’s Blog too, but thought it good to add here.

      ‘Just read the blog in question, and find your critiques odd and misplaced? It is clearly a personal account of things, and she never pretends otherwise. You appear to be investing far too heavily in the idea that she is constructing argument, rather than simply giving personal observation.

      If she were setting out to analyze the political situation in South Africa in terms of some Philosophical theory, then the extent and kind of criticism would make sense to me. As she isn’t, it’s unclear to me why you feel the need to level it? ‘

  14. Hi Susan, aahh I think this is a very common problem in almost any industry, people seem to lose their “manners” the minute their communication is via the world wide web… thats why we have this huge increase cyber-bullying for example. Sigh, but anyway, just for the record, you can block users on WordPress, if they can register, you can block them, just saying ;)
    B

  15. Hi Susan. As always, a good post :)

    One word describes these people for me (well many words, but most not worth repeating!) – COWARDS. That is all it comes down to. One wonders what their words would be if they used their real name or if, God forbid, they were standing in front of you.

    I used to spend a lot of time writing a sports blog – which I simply don’t have the time for anymore – using an alias (TheGreenMan – still used for sports commentary on twitter) though I was never afraid to share my identity and regular readers could very easily find that out if they so desired. The alias was really just for the sake of playing on the “green” thing – you know, a Bok fan :). Anyway, doing this I also encountered a lot of the people you refer to. Idiots hiding behind their screens and feeling very bold.

    This is what it comes down to for me … Despite how big these people act they are really very small, so one of the best pieces of advice then kicks into gear: “Don’t sweat the SMALL stuff”

  16. YES YES YES! Having run an online company for four years I can totally relate to this!! Thanks for getting the truth out and making me laugh at the same time. Your blog is just the best.

  17. Please don’t stop writing! I will die a sad and miserable death here in the middle of China. Your blogs keep me connected to the real world.

  18. Your articles are thought provoking and engaging, love it love it love it (from an appreciatve SA expat living in the UAE – where compelling writing is rather hard to come by ;)

  19. Great post and so true…why on earth do people waste their time posting negative comments…if they don’t like your amazing blog and what you have to say, there are millions of other blogs to read…no one will miss them! My mum always used to say: “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything” This applies to blogs too! Keep writing ….I LOVE your blog!

  20. Susan – I love your writing. I choose the time when I can sit quietly (which can be difficult with 2 boys and hubby), I have my glass of wine………and giggle! Keep going! You are so talented!

  21. Susan, you are a scream! I just discovered your blog through a friend on facebook, and she has truly made my day. You made my day! I have read so many of your posts now and I am aching from laughter. The way you tell it like it is, for an SA expat who is missing home, is just heart warming, tummy clenching, truthful and just sommer lekker! THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! I’m so glad to have found you. As for the Tokoloshe’s… you got it right… they gotta go see someone, seriously!

  22. Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some of the post I
    realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

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    I had to tell someone!

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