Friday, June 22, 2012

Mommy, where do trolls come from?

I'm departing from my reviews for a moment to ponder the notion of reviewing.  Why do we do it?  I'm not trying to speak for the entire book reviewing community, but I think I can state with some certainty that we review books to enlighten others of a book's state of awesomeness or crappitude or, even worse, mediocrity; to spread the word about a brand new, fabulous author or an author who's been around the block and is only increasing in talent; to highlight images, sentences, characters, plot points, anything about a book which made it stand out, which piqued our imaginations and caught us up in the story line.  Whatever our reviews contain, though, the most important thing to remember is a review is an opinion.  It's not a forensic examination; it's not a textbook lecture to instruct the masses on how to view the book.  And it's certainly not a manifesto commanding the literate public that they must react in the exact same way to the book as the reviewer did.  A review is simply a collection of thoughts, musings, recollections, and drawn parallels which are idiosyncratic to the person who read the book and wrote the subsequent review.  Those reading said review may agree with it totally ("It's like you read my mind!"); they may agree with parts, but take exception to certain points ("It's a good review, but I think you misread/misunderstood what the author was doing with this character/in this scene."); or they may vehemently disagree with every single sentence written by the reviewer, to the point that they feel the need to excoriate the reviewer using the most vile, and often misspelled and/or grammatically incorrect, language possible ("Your so stupid!  How could you hav not liked the book?  Maybe you should shut your f*cking mouth and stop insluting the author.").

And thus we come to the point of my rant post:  Trolls.



What bait lures them from their dark, dank holes?  Why do they feel the need to attack?  Why can't they disagree with a reviewer in a civilized manner?  Present their arguments in a clear manner and, when the debate between them and the reviewer obviously reaches a stalemate, accept that their opinions and the reviewer's opinions differ and bow out gracefully?  I suppose this kind of behavior is too much to ask, and I don't mean to sound preachy, but it disgusts me how easily people become nasty and vindictive simply for the sake of doing so.  Take, for instance, the reviewing system on Amazon.com.  Now, if you're a reviewer like me, scrolling through your past posted reviews is not an exercise to undertake if you want to maintain your mental health.  It becomes quite discouraging to look through your reviews only to see, time after time, that so many people have found it "unhelpful."  (What does that term, "unhelpful," even mean anyway?  I think the system needs to be changed; if you want to mark a review as "unhelpful," for whatever reason, you should have to leave a comment as to why you're choosing to mark a review as such.  And not a comment consisting of "It sucked."  The comment would have to be at least 20 characters long, thus requiring a modicum of brain power.  This would benefit the reviewer in more ways than simply eliminating random "unhelpful" votes; factoring out those comments which would undoubtedly run along more wordy lines of "It sucked," other comments might actually contain helpful, constructive criticism, intended or not, which would aid the reviewer in writing future reviews.)

Recently, I made the mistake of scrolling through my Amazon reviews.  I noticed that two of my more recent ones both had "0 out of 1 people found this review helpful." at the top and, I admit, I felt rather disgruntled.  After all, these two reviews were positive ones, 4 stars at least; in each I clearly outlined why I thought the books rocked and praised the authors' talent.  I could somewhat understand getting "unhelpful" votes on 1- or 2-star reviews; after all, trolls love going after negative reviews as it gives them a forum in which to "correct" the reviewer in very strident and pompous tones.  But going all "unhelpful" on positive reviews?  It just doesn't make sense.  So I start to get paranoid.  After all, I've run into my fair share of vocal opponents--do I now have a troll stalker?  Someone who follows my reviews just to shoot them down?  Does that even happen?  Or am I simply suffering from delusions of grandeur?  Maybe.  I don't know.  Frankly the whole situation is bizarre.

So I've resolved to stop caring.  I possess a unique combination of neurons and neural networks--my brain.  It's like no one else's brain.  Therefore my opinions, while they may be shared, will not be duplicated.  And no amount of virtual yelling, berating, cursing, or vitriol will alter those opinions.  Like water off a duck's back:  you throw shit at me, I'm just going to move aside and not throw shit back.  I don't know where trolls come from, why they feel the need to behave the way they do, or why they have troubling accepting that every person on this planet is a unique individual, with a unique way of thinking, and in possession of the right to express those unique thoughts without interference from any other person.  What I do know is trolls are not trolls; they are whiny little babies who will never get their way, no matter how hard they scream.  They're really rather pathetic when you think about it.

Sorry for the interruption.  We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.


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