You get a thick skin when messing around on the Internet and that can go either way. You can react, like a nerve burned raw, or you can become a troll. This is a story of both.
I’ll paraphrase the story here, but go and read it yourself. It’s quite short and very concise. It shows a man’s descent into fear and his eventual recovery and uncovers part of the Internet that, in a word, horrifies me.
Leo Traynor is a political consultant and writer in Ireland. As he began to use Twitter, he would get random followers who then proceeded to harass him, screaming garbage like “Your husband is scum. A rotten b*stard and you’re a wh*re” to his wife and casting anti-Semitic aspersions with regularity. He’d block the account and another would pop up in its place. He’d block that one and he’d get more abuse.
Finally, Traynor quit Twitter. That’s when he got a box of ashes and a note saying “Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz.” The Troll knew where he lived.
Traynor grew paranoid. He feared for his wife and his family’s life. However, with a bit of digging with the help of an IT-savvy friend, he grabbed three IP addresses and some information that pointed him to a friend’s house – and pinpointed the friends’ 17-year-old son.
He went to the friend’s house to meet his troll. The boy – although I would argue he’s a bit older than a boy – was oblivious until Traynor produced a list of all of the attacks. The boy’s parents wanted to call the police but Traynor refused. He turned this into a teaching lesson.
Before he left, Traynor faced his tormenter.
Trolling is easy. Anonymous – or even non-anonymous – vitriol on the Internet is the simplest, most primitive method of communication known and it is also the most useless. It is, in short, garbage.
Many of us, myself included, dash off angry comments and other bullshit in forums and social media. But why? Must we really release our impotent rage? Must we be like an old racist at an empty kitchen table, alone and unwanted, disintegrating into a soup of hatred. Are we infants?
I posit we aren’t.
Traynor met his troll and I think his story is educational and important. We’re all better than this. I have to hope that’s true.