It is the new year and with that, many people are doing what they can to take a break from social media. Now, with the current times, I understand that social media is a cesspool for many. There are trolls. There are racists. There are homophobes and misogynists. There be devils out there and in this post I have no intention to take away the validity and power of those things. I am fortunate to not be that famous and I get to screech about feminism, the arbitrariness of the gender binary and why female anime characters are intentionally written poorly by bad writers. But I have been trolled. I have faced my fair amount of backlash. I am old, despite how young my face looks. I know what hate is on the Internet. And thus, I do not tolerate it.
Today, I’d like to share with you all how I keep my sanity online.
Now, for those of you who do not know, my day job is as a social media manager. It is literally my job to stay online. And in today’s climate that can be…taxing. I know about every mass shooting, every celebrity death, every terrible thing said by a terrible politician. I am aware of all those things and it’s an emotional drain each and every time. But I do what I can to put that in a little box. Every generation faces hardship and I use that discontent to do something to make the world a better place: I continue to panel, foster productive conversation and I vote, dammit I vote. But back to being online. I keep my online news on a pretty strict diet. Once I’m home, it’s nothing but Live P.D. and cat videos. Whatever breaking news happened will continue to be breaking when I get back into the office.
As far as my own personal social media: I am a strict and intense gardener. Let’s explain that metaphor. When I was younger, I tended to roses (because I am an anime boy and of course I did). Roses are fickle. You have to remove ones that are not as strong as others. Water but only so much. Prune back thorns and branches. Gardening is a lot of work and it’s exactly how I approach social media.
Someone who is toxic and does nothing but complain about a situation they can and should leave? Hide all posts or mute. Someone spouting transphobia or hate speech? Full block or removal. Someone says something cruel to me or one of my friends? Full block!
Social media is your garden: especially when you’re like me and have both a public and “private” persona. I set an expectation and basic level of understanding that if you read my blog, see my panels or follow me on social that such behavior like coarse language, homophobia, transphobia or general ignorance or hatred are simply not tolerated. Like O-ren Ishii I do always try to be respectful during these times where people are not so kind but much like O-ren, I have very little patience for trolls. I spent too many years on the Internet being berated, spoken to in not so kind ways to and other not so wonderful things. I am old now and full of ennui and wisdom: I know my worth and I know the worth of my friends; cruelty towards me or those I care about are simply not tolerated.
Back to gardening. Muting or removing people doesn’t always mean that I do not care for that person. There are plenty of people that I care about but do not have the time, patience or energy to deal with the nonsense that seems to surround them. It is entirely like a garden, prune and keep the roses that are show-stoppers and trim back the ones that are losing their luster.
But wait, you may insist: what do I do if I’m already being trolled? Well, I’m glad you asked. I do my best to be civil when civility is allowed. Most trolls are incredibly thrown off by simply engaging with them. They aren’t expecting a response, yet alone one that isn’t filled with fire and fury. I simply try to kill them with kindness. And if kindness doesn’t work, communication is a two-way street: it’s just as easy to block them as it is to continue to engage with them. I tend to think there’s two kinds of trolls, the defensive kind and the reprehensible kind. The defensive ones just have opinions and they’re ready to fight you if you so much as look at a beloved property the wrong way (something that puts me, your beloved Prince of Unpopular Opinions, at times at odds with this type of Internet warrior) they have fifteen comments already queued up as to why you’re wrong and usually will throw in an insult or two just to add “strength” to their point. This kind of troll can be reasoned with sometimes if you engage kindly and simply explain your position: even if you can’t convert them, sometimes, they’ll see your side of things. The reprehensible one is another sort of beast entirely. This type of creature wants to get under your skin, wants to say something nasty, wants to get a reaction; they are waiting for that reaction.
Don’t give it to them. For the love of all things good, do not give them that attention. That’s exactly what they want and I know how easy it is to say that. I know how easy it is to say that from the comfort of my apartment and relative obscurity. For those more in the public eye or more under scrutiny, know that I feel for you. It’s hard to ignore those comments but it’s vital to do so. And every time you want to respond to a hateful person, know that you cannot change their mind.
Now, some will say this sounds a lot like Tina Fey and her cake analogy that many people hated her for after the horrendous Charlottesville protest and subsequent violence. Her SNL skit centered around eating a cake and screaming into it whenever something terrible happened in America. Many compared her to Marie Antoinette and her famous “let them eat brioche” line and while I am empathetic to those who think the comment was out of touch: I don’t disagree with the sentiment, just the delivery. There are plenty of instances in real life that many people have no luxury to quietly and in a dignified way endure hatred; there are lives at stake. But as far as online trolls go, it’s hard to get any proper context online: it’s simply not worth it sometimes. But when it comes to real life, well, that’s another post perhaps.
In this new year, I hope that all of you find more comfort in social media. The social internet was not invented to isolate us into tribes but it has. I want things to get better. I’m sure things will get better. I hope these tips are helpful.