Remember the first time you realized not all words were created equal? The fun knowing how some words were tricky, because they sounded the same, spelled different and meant something else all together? Most children have this epiphany when they learn about beavers (don’t go there– THAT is slang) who make mud fences in water called “dams.” Voices of innocence laugh saying dam-dam-dam a victory, because it sounds exactly like what caused a punishment for repeating an overheard swearing a week before. Ah the innocence of life. Damn it had its moments.
Then the innocence wore off.
Words hurt, and in this day and age they kill too, as swiftly and silently as any weapon. Bullies, insecure, jealous and empty individuals, NOT just children who don’t know better, thrive on the power they have over those they feel are less fortunate, unworthy or many times assumed better than themselves.
When we walked a school yard in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s it was a lunch money shake down, a nerd getting wedgies or a set up by a popular kid to emotionally destroy someone not in their non-athletic competition “league.” Yes, we all knew the score back then. Some acted like “Carrie,” the sad embodiment of a victim, who took a bloody and nasty revenge, through the pen of King when she was made Queen as a joke. But others were like Cinderella, who held her tongue and ended up with a silent smiling revenge on those who hurt her, when their deeds were uncovered in time. Indeed, not all who are picked upon take the revenge route, but some do take the mortuary route and it is no fairytale!
Taking the homonym exit on the Internet Super Highway we commute on daily, I turned off into a Chat Board, where people with similar interests go to meet and communicate, much like a rest area. In this world, such boards have become the community centers, kitchen tables and neighbors we all once enjoyed in person. Only today, I saw more “Bored” and “Meat,” than I expected. The jabs and pokes at invisible faces with real emotions and lives behind their screen names, made me sick. Do you know, if you Google the phrase “Troll,” one of the definitions is a person or cyber bully who attacks others on a whim to satisfy their need for attention. Yes, just like the trolls who lived in a dark existence, under the bridge in many fairy tales. Difference now is they have unabridged access to lie, accuse and mock from the kingdom of their keyboard, leaving their subjects in shock.
Bored, pathetic individuals who troll for victims, that are then verbally gutted like fresh meat in a public forum need to be stopped. Is this behavior because they lost a dispute with a friend or acquaintance and can now vilify the other person publicly, wining in a sick default? Do they turn off their computers and feel proud at their evilness, especially if it was silently supported behavior and has now hurt someone they don’t know or even worse know very well. Question is how do we really ever stop something invisible?
Words, once spoken disappear into the air leaving their wounds to fester, scar over or heal. Now, in font filled fury, they can dance forever on computer screens, recorded for revenge and review as long as it is supported – not unlike the wicked gossip passed along in school and groups “just too good not to share or join in” or worse “if I don’t follow what they will do to me?” Right?
Truly mind bending is that the majority of the boards, collector groups and blogs we freely visit, are run and commented upon by people just like us, who want a voice, either due to being gay, abused, addicted, lonely or just tired of being a once silent minority, with something good to say. What these good intended individuals miss however, is in getting their voice; many allow “bored” behavior to continue at the same time. Why? Is it their chance to finally feel the popular crowd crown, even if no one knows but them?
Sunday Go To Meeting, is a phrase that ran it’s course, as I am sure, Just My Humble Opinion will also fade in time, as the catch all unwritten release to say whatever a troll wants to, as they live on the bottom of chat boards. I fear though what will replace them, fear who will use them and fear who will be victim of them.
Just because we can read and write, doesn’t mean all we read is right. But it is a good bet, what we write is usually read. So take a moment now, look at words in front of you and give a “damn!” Sure, no one is probably going to see your actions at stopping a troll, unlike if you visually rally with them in a response to their postings. In fact, you might even get a chat board following, cheering you both on in your cyber and fiendish friendship. However, the question is no different than it would be face-to-face, do you want to be right or do you want to hide behind a write? Because when the computer is off, the only “power” any of us can wield, is invisible and inside, knowing we said no and made it right.
Photo of the U.S. Today print issue