June 13, 2012
Internet troll (from Urban Dictionary):
1. Noun. One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.
2. Noun. A person whose sole purpose in life is to seek out people to argue with on the Internet over extrememly trivial issues. Such arguments can happen on blogs, Facebook, Myspace, and a host of others. The best thing you can do to fight an Internet troll is to not answer. (My addendum: this is also known as "Don't feed the trolls!")
As the Internet came to dominate our lives, our lives—and everything in them—came onto the Internet. It's no surprise, then, that even trolls have made the transition, abandoning their homes under bridges and in caves and ceasing to harass billy goats and other traveling animals in favor of living in the cyber-world and harassing everyone on the Internet. Like good stubborn trolls, however, their personality traits have stayed the same despite the change: they're irascible, hungry*, and most likely, bearded.
Tricycle is not immune to Internet trolls. In fact, we have quite a few regulars. Though it doesn't get even one bit as crazy on here as it does on other websites, they're here and they love to interfere.
Every time it happens, I'm reminded of a Buddhist friend I have who is quite dedicated to his practice and is also a self-proclaimed Internet troll. He claims that trolling—if you troll for good, not evil—can in fact be part of our Buddhist practice. The idea is that a well-placed, well-spoken troll can act as a sort of Internet Buddhist master: by provoking us, they show us exactly where our faults lie.
Of course, this theory isn't foolproof. Foremost among its many problems is that whereas Buddhist masters go through rigorous training to become discerning and wise, it's not like there's a Geshe degree for Internet trolls. Another problem is that the theory rests upon the assumption that Internet trolls are both disciplined and well-intentioned...when I think that most of them are just trying to be jerks.
Regardless, it's an interesting theory. And if we really take the lesson "all life is practice" to heart, then even Internet trolls are to be included in that. If nothing else, it's an excellent opportunity to practice Right Speech.**
So if you happen to spot a Tricycle Troll amidst your wanderings here, don't be surprised. And do your best not to feed it. A troll will troll just as a bird will fly and a fish will swim, but not even a troll can survive without food. Don't worry. If they're really being negative, we'll kindly ask them to return to their bridge.
*Yes, I do realize that this blog post is like a troll feast. Which is why I've disabled the comments on this post.
**That doesn't mean you should tell the troll that he should practice Right Speech more. It probably just means that you should ignore him. Because sometimes Right Speech is Right Silence, if you see what I'm saying.