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 you blog is so refreshing and I get so excited when I get the email notification that you just wrote a new article.
    As you mentioned, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I will be the first to admit that although I thoroughly enjoy your writing I don’t necessarily node my head in agreement with everything you write but who cares right? The sad reality is that trolls will be trolls and one needs to just let them be and move on… Keep calm and disco pants on :)

  2. Oh Susan! At the end of the day, YOU are the smart, funny one. YOU are the one with the blog and a darn entertaining one at that. In the midst of all the negativity in this world you have taught me, after a long time, that this is what typifies us as South Africans – the ability to LAUGH at ourselves, to pick ourselves up and move on. And..you do that so very well. Please continue my friend, knowing that for every troll or Tokoloshe, there are 50 normal people loving reading your posts and I am one of them!
    Love your posts and your heart.

  3. I’ve come across some mean-spirited people in my business and it always amazes me how people like this get through life. It really is their shit though and the best thing you can do is completely ignore. A wise sage once told me never to negotiate with a terrorist and I promise you, silence burns hotter than any words you can retaliate with – however justified they may be! LOVE your work so don’t ever stop (even a for a day :D)!

  4. Love this post! Only been following since yesterday, but I really enjoy your unapologetic way of saying what most of us are thinking and feeling anyway. We have become a society obsessed with our own freedom of speech and expression… yet we forget to return the favour. It’s like reading the first “50 shades” book and then bitching about how shocking it is all the way to the bookshop to buy the second and third one. Tokoloshes… hehehe…. no doubt you’ll have a few comments about beds on bricks and the like….hahaha

  5. I find some of these tokoloshes simultaneously fascinating and hilarious, while filling me with a sense of doom for the whole human race. If you think you’ve got it bad, take a look at comments for The Onion or any other satirical site and read the number of righteously indignant commenters who have no clue what satire even is.
    And yes, half the time it’s clear they haven’t read or understood, just picked up on the title and 3 or 4 words and spewed them back out with their rage all over the place.
    Think it’s great you get them filtered before you read them – I’d like to write but not sure how I’d handle the abuse.

  6. Well I for one am very glad that I came across your blog…and it came by a very circuitious way…but am thoroughly enjoying your musings. The flashmob from NMMU was very dear to me as it is my old university and it did bring tears to my eyes… so you just carry on blogging x

  7. I think people feel safe hiding in the web, not having to show who they really are, saying rude things that they would never say to anyone’s face…..and the funny thing is, that most of these rude spoilers can’t spell!! Or they use all those annoying language mistakes……and if they hate what you say, why spoil it for those of us who subscribe, and come here because we LOVE it. You get them on every forum, illiterate, boring haters. Keep your entertaining stories coming, I love them here in Sydney.

  8. I think people feel safe hiding in the web, not having to show who they really are, saying rude things that they would never say to anyone’s face…..and the funny thing is, that most of these rude spoilers can’t spell!! Or they use all those annoying language mistakes……and if they hate what you say, why spoil it for those of us who subscribe, and come here because we LOVE it. You get them on every forum, illiterate, boring haters. Keep your entertaining stories coming, I love them here in Sydney.

  9. Nice one. In the olden days (if one’s older than about 40!), letters page editors would sift out the most bilious letters. Now it’s a free for all.

  10. Susan, I think your blog is great and I find myself looking forward to reading it daily. The sad thing about the angry people in the world is that they spread their toxic energy like a virus without really contributing anything of purpose. Alot of the time these angry people aren’t very intelligent as it takes an intelligent person or at least someone with half a brain to understand that everyone has the right to an opinion and if you don’t like the blog DON’T READ IT. Pretty simple actually. Thank you for your wit and humour and keep up the GREAT work.

  11. This certainly resonated with me, “A new writer friend who contacted me because of my blog and with whom I enjoyed the most wonderful winey lunch yesterday …” brought to mind the first rule of enjoying a bottle of wine, ‘Good company is key.’ Could this be applicable to blogging too?

  12. Hello Susan. It seems as though your assistant has ditched a comment (or two) of mine. I don’t recall being offensive and certainly don’t believe my opinions were unreasonable , even when they differed with yours. A word of caution of I may. Get rid of the Tokoloshes by all means but guard against sterilising your comments-pages . Sometimes opposing voices are reasonable even when their words sting. Thanks again for the great Blog. John

  13. Hi, here I am , probably one of your Tokoloshes:)
    You will obviously get responses good or bad seeing as though they are written in a public space.
    And I know it is your opinion about the naysayers and the Tokoloshes , but in my simple head. I am thinking, she is being negative about these two, of which I probably fall into both categories, BUT why is she even bothering to comment on them ? After all her advice to both is to, 1. Stop hating your life, and 2. Find somewhere else to spew profanities.
    You are doing exactly the same are you not? Maybe in a very nicely articulated way which appeals to a lot of people. But at the end of the day some of your blogs are rants about people you do not agree with ???
    If ever in SA, this Tokolosh/ naysayer would love to have a glass of wine and shoot the breeze with you ….reckon I could entice you to a land where there are lots of us that just love being where we ended up, but sooooo miss our Cape Town……..
    (All of the above meant in a friendly manner)

    1. Ha ha! No, you are not a Tokoloshe at all! Presenting a different view is completely okay – and important. And look how politely you do it. Happy to wine and shoot the breeze any day :-)

  14. I cracked myself for this post! I must say it was hilarious. Some truth, and again BRAVE. Saying it like it is to those nasty readers who comments with insults. I say – DO NOT STOP BLOGGING! You started something interesting. Even though some do not agree, This blog is VERY INTERESTING & DIFFERENT : I like it even though I don`t agree with some of what you write. It
    will grow to be MASSIVE. You`ll see. Oh and guess what, Tekeloshe`s are REAL!

  15. Yoh! Yoh! Yoh! I am finished, dead!! I think this is the funniest blog of yours that I’ve read so far! Love your work! I laughed so hard!! Tokolosh??!! I Didnt see that coming.

  16. Yep, welcome to the world of blogging. Unfortuantely, if you’re a blogger with an opinion (ie not just writing about your perfect life and how to make the perfect cupcake), you’re going to get a lot of trolls. And your take on them is just right. I had someone tell me last week that I should stop wasting my time and rather copy and paste text from Hello Peter and Trip Advisor than write my own words. Nice hey? I pressed DELETE. Only way to deal with them!
    Carry on writing because you’re brilliant, and as Sharma says, “Big people don’t make people feel small.”
    Trolls/Tokoloshes are not big people – they are small people and they do not deserve your time and effort.

    Keri from http://www.midlandsmusings.com

  17. I really enjoy your blog…you have such a fun, sunny way of writing. As a former South African living now in Germany, it seems like a bit of homey sun in my living room, when I read your blog. Thank you :-)

  18. You’re wonderful. Thanks for keeping on writing, and maybe just keep some bricks under the laptop for safety’s-sake!

    :-)

  19. I LOVE YOUR WRITING! DON’T STOP WRITING! I’M GLAD THAT WORDPRESS HAVEN’T CLOSED YOUR BLOG DOWN!

    PS (to the Tokoloshs)
    If you don’t like it – scroll down and look for the “unsubscribe” button – Lovey! It’s not hard!

  20. It would be the most awful tragedy if you gave in to these sad, pathetic people. PLEASE keep on writing. Your articles are a beacon of hope and sanity in what is frequently a confusing and depressing world. But your take on our life here in South Africa, in the wide sense, and Cape Town in a more condensed way, is so frikking fabulous that we would all be much the poorer if these twisted people have their way. What can it be that gets them so riled up? Some serious kak going on in those minds. Don’t leave us, please!!!

  21. I think the doctor chick is my sister. She’s not a doctor.
    Every other characteristic is definitely her though.
    Thanks for the blog, for being normal…and creating a place where other normal people can come to.
    …and me.

  22. First time I am commenting on a blog – just love this piece – it really had me smiling at the end of a long day! Thanks. :-)

  23. I salute you for what you are writing – it totally resonates with me and I find on your blog a lot of what I have thought but have never voiced, for whatever reason! A stint living in the UK, made me realise how important freedom of speech is. I really believe sharing thoughts, ideas and opinions without prejudice or someone getting all upset, is key to South Africa, as a country, making steps forward.

  24. You always bring a giggle to lips, or a thought to my day which can stop me in my tracks – thank you for sharing – as Barney says – its caring after all!! And we love ya babe!!

  25. Hi Susan, I’m a new “reader” to your blog, and it think it is very cool. I have gathered from some of your blogging (not sure if that’s an actual word?) that you tend to take it personally, when people reply with negative/furious/moronic and basically kak feedback. I am here to tell you one thing….screw them. Keep up the fabulous work. I personally can’t wait to read each new blog.
    Cheers Grant

  26. I for one, really love your blog. I live in the States and it just reminds me of home, especially when you use words like muti and Tokoloshe and phrases like “with tears in my eyes”. You just don’t hear that here and I love reading your blog and feeling a bit more South African! Please keep writing because I WILL keep reading!

  27. Yey, I was hoping I would wake up to this in my email list this morning . . . great anticipation and I was NOT DISAPPOINTED! Fantastic as always . . . keep avoiding the vomit splatter . . . not good for your disco pants and sparkly shoes!

  28. Your writing is great, Susan. Informative, witty, unpretentious….and you take a stand while being careful not to offend. Never mind the vomit from those addled vipers. I don’t usually read blogs, but yours is the first one I am following after reading Angry Expats on FB. Keep up the good work. It provides a welcome window to home. From an ex PE/Jo’burg guy in Boston.

  29. Susan your blog is so good and so life affirming that it has made me make a firm decision to move back to South Africa within 2 years. I’ve lived in London for 16 years and it’s time up. The way you write and the way you describe life in Cape Town and the experiences that are available there – pure magic. I genuinely thank you for that. Keep writing because it’s fantastic stuff.

  30. oh Susie, you have never failed to make me smile and just sit and laugh and laugh when i read your blogs. From the first day a met you, you made me smile. love you always and look forward to seeing you and Sophie on saturday !

  31. An opinion is just that… an opinion.. you are entitled to yours and I’m entitled to mine. Thank goodness we don’t all have the same opinions as the world would be a very boring place. Truly enjoying your blog, not because I always agree with your thoughts, but because you’re a smart writer who makes me think and has me laughing at myself, at life and sometimes shedding a tear when it all hits home.You can never please everyone, so as long as you go to sleep at night believing in what you’ve written & lived that day… then job well accomplished. Thank you for your honesty and your opinions, and remember what we tell our kids about bullies… most often they’re broken people who have issues, demons, anger, frustration and NEVER let yourself get sucked into all of that. Just saying… Cheers from Houston TX (and at heart I’m still a Capetonian Saffer!)

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