The other day I was talking to a friend. LIE! Okay fine, I was talking to my therapist because these days I have to pay someone that I do not ever need to interact with in a social setting to help me process life because 2017 has been a whole lot of things for a lot of us and most of those things have not been excellent! I was frustrated that I had made such little headway on my writing. I had the time, the ideas, and the discipline in other areas of my life but I was not where I had intended to be with my writing and if I had to answer one more well-intentioned but shame-inducing “How’s that book coming along?!” I was going to run into the nearest coffee shop and beg to be a barista again because at least then I could honestly claim to be a productive member of society.
We broke it all down. Was I afraid of success?
Hell no, I was not afraid to succeed in my writing. Bring on the book deal, the readers, the freedom to share my words, and how about a nice paycheck in there too!
Would I be happy if I wrote a book and no one read it?
I wouldn’t be happy but I would survive.
Was I afraid of online trolls? (By the way, she seemed certain that this was likely it.)
No, actually. I have written a great deal of things that are polarizing. The first thing I ever wrote and shared publicly after college was a snarky piece when I was brand new to teaching yoga that got a lot of negative attention and unfortunately with it, so did I.
She looked at me, giving me space to work it out aloud.
“It’s not the trolls I don’t know. It’s something like that though… It’s like the people I know…they’re not quite frenemies of mine, but they’re not intimate friends of mine either, it’s like they’re trolls but more personal. Ahh, it’s the trolls I do know! I’m afraid of the trolls I know!”
As the kids say, I was shook. (In my mind,one of the best things about aging is getting to say things like that. Hell, that shit isn’t a Mom or Dad joke, that’s just an old joke.) Anyway, I immediately knew that I truly was afraid of the trolls I know AND that I am one of those trolls. Or at least, I used to be. Let me explain.
For years, I was the go-to person if you wanted to share a screenshot of some annoying or embarrassing thing that someone in your social circle shared. Friends would fire off quick texts embedded with screengrabs followed by a string of emojis like 🙄😐
That person you claimed to be friends with who just shared another photo of her açaí bowl with ten hashtags? Text it to me. I’d answer back with a quickness. Who’s she kidding? Get over yourself, girl!
That yoga event that was overpriced and seemed exclusive and for cool kids only? You’d send it over to me and I’d reply even quicker That’s not yoga! Is that class any different than the one they teach every week? Why is it $35 more?!
I knew I had to look at why I was on the receiving end of so much of this. I wished it was because I was a safe person who people felt they could share their honest selves with. People would slide into my DMs with IG captures of events and snarks about other yogi’s posts. Let me be honest, I didn’t take the high road. I often snarked right back with them and it felt good for about 5 minutes. It felt like we were sharing something real. After the immediacy passed, I felt worse. I knew that I wasn’t someone that people could trust, just like I knew that the person who shared in on the snarking with me wasn’t someone who I could trust. It’s draining and petty and it definitely was saying more about us then about the people we were snarking on.
I was a troll! I was the troll you know. And I know that I’m not alone in this. We’re a nation of trolls. It permeates throughout our culture. It starts to seem normal to act like this. It doesn’t have to be the new normal.
I never actually held any malice towards the people I was secretly trolling. In most instances, I was annoyed or frustrated over a lack of communication about some other aspect of our relationship. Or I was jealous about opportunities that person had earned or frustrated with my own perceived shortcomings.
Once I realized that I was afraid of the trolls I know and that it was holding me back and once I recognized that I had been guilty of trolling people that I know, I had to figure it out. That meant that 2017 was a year of severing ties and tightening my social circle. It wasn’t easy. Or fun. The thing that I had to remind myself over and over again was that the people who shared in snarking with me weren’t the problem. They weren’t jerks. I wasn’t a jerk. The combination of us was the problem! The way that we communicated about others was the problem. If there was no genuine connection besides the trolling, than even though they seemed fun and I cared for them – we were a bad mix. End of story. We couldn’t continue to catalyze and encourage the other’s bad behavior.
To really live in a free zone to create and love, we cannot be afraid of the trolls that we know because there are far too many trolls that we don’t know. Once we get over the fear of the trolls we don’t know then it is time to do what I think is the even harder work of creating genuine relationships that don’t rely on putting other people down in order to thrive.
With sarcasm as my first dialect, this has not been an easy transition. It has been painful to let relationships that I thought were substantive melt when I realized that neither of us were getting anything long-lasting or positive in the deal. It has been lonely to realize that I often was feeding into drama without substance.
2017 has been a trying year. It remains a year that will test the strength of our convictions. I don’t want to waste one more second of snark on the small stuff because there are bigger battles to be fought here. I take strength from my friends who have done amazing things in this year despite its dumpster fire reputation. And when I catch myself about to snark to someone, I draft the text and let it sit. Later when I return to it, the message never feels so urgent. The need to take someone down in order to feel better has passed.
I welcome 2018 to be a year where I embrace reaching out to friends again sans snark. And listen, I get it, if I have been the troll you know who catalyzes your inner troll to get mean and you need to sever ties with me so that you can feel free to create and silence your inner troll, it’ll be painful, but it’ll be worth it for both of us. We may not be talking but I will be cheering you on. In time, the only emojis tied to your name in my mind will be ❤️☺️✌